Cops stay away from lawyers rally.

LAHORE: By Wajih Ahmad Sheikh.
Lawyers continued their protest against the sacking and detention of judges and staged a big rally on The Mall despite heavy rain all day on Thursday.However, the critical aspect of the rally was the protesters had not been provided security. There were no heavy contingents of police, which were earlier seen at all previous rallies. It looked that the police could not recover from the shock of a suicide bomb attack in Lahore that claimed over 22 lives. The absence of the police was also attributed to the fear of such an incident.Earlier, whenever the lawyers gathered on The Mall for demonstration, authorities always deployed heavy contingents of police on both sides of the road. The lawyers, who were earlier barred from approaching the Faisal Cross, took full advantage of the absence of the riot police and demonstrated their to their satisfaction.First, lawyers of the Lahore Bar Association (LBA), holding banners, placards and posters inscribed with slogans against President Musharraf and pictures of ‘deposed’ Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry emerged from Aiwan-e-Adl. As the lawyers reached The Mall, they started pulling down PML-Q flags, tied to the streetlights in the middle of the road. When the rally reached the main gate of the LHC, lawyers from the LHCBA joined it and marched towards the Punjab Assembly. After reaching the Punjab Assembly, some lawyers took shelter under the trees in front of the assembly hall while the rest gathered on the road and chanted slogans in favour of the ‘deposed’ chief justice. Addressing the rally, Hamid Khan issued a call to colleagues across the country to gather in Islamabad outside the residence of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on February 9. He said every lawyer was a soldier of the chief justice and would not rest until his restoration. He said the lawyers were united and would continue rallies from across the country on every Thursday. LHCBA President Ahsan Bhoon said the movement would continue unless the judiciary was restored to its pre-November state, an independent commission was set up and lawyers were released. Later, the lawyers walked in the rain to their respective courts.Meanwhile, Capital City Police Officer Malik Mohammad Iqbal, commenting on security arrangements for the lawyers’ rally, said they had evolved a new strategy to protect the demonstrators. “It is absolutely incorrect if someone says the lawyers were not provided security,” he added. When asked to elaborate the ‘invisible’ security plan, he said it was the department’s internal matter that could not be disclosed due to security reasons. Earlier, LBA President Manzoor Qadir, addressing a general house meeting of the bar, praised the former body which, he said, had raised the image of Pakistani lawyers in the world through its campaign. He said the lawyers could not be subdued by a dictator who had employed all coercive measures to browbeat them.He lamented the lack of the participation of political parties in protests against the government. “We are not candidates for any ministry. We want the political parties to join us and free the country from the clutches of dictatorship,” he added.Meanwhile, speaking at the general house of the LHCBA, Hamid Khan, Punjab Bar Council member Khurram Latif Khosa, Allah Bukhsh Gondal, Abdul Rashid Qureshi, Mian Hanif Tahir and Muhammad Anwar Ghumman maintained that the lawyers would not recognise PCO judges.They said that a one-day total strike and a daily boycott for one hour had been approved by the Joint Action Commission, but it should not be taken as a sign of weakness in the lawyers’ movement or any comprise. “Lawyers all over the country are united and committed with the goal,” they said, adding that the revised strategy, however, was not final and could be modified if the majority demanded. They said all lawyers had the same viewpoint on expediting and intensifying the movement in an organised manner and asked the bar leadership to take into consideration different options. The speakers compared the PCO on November 3 to the action on October 12, 1999, as the Constitution was subverted in both cases. They said the dictator, through a conspiracy, was spreading terror in the country to achieve personal gains while 160 million people of Pakistan were pushed into starvation, fear and poverty.LHCBA Secretary Sarfraz Ahmad Cheema said the bar had decided to involve the general public in order to expedite and enlarge the scope of the movement and for the purpose it would convey to them the message of the lawyers besides informing them about the significance of an independent judiciary for the survival and integrity of the country. He said the lawyer committees would be set up at every level to spread the message through booklets and other material. The bar secretary also condemned the move to cut off the water supply to the residence of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, adding that the present regime had revived the Karbala tragedy. He appealed to professionals, civil society members and students to join the lawyers to make their struggle a success. Vice president of the bar, Miss Firdous Butt said lawyers’ spirits were high even in the face of suicide bombers during their processions. Blaming the government for its failure to protect the citizens, she said the government was creating panic in society by naming Baitullah Mehsud behind the terrorist act in the city.
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