Monday, November 5, 2007

Police Battle Lawyers In Protest Against Pakistan's Emergency Rule

Continuing coverage of Pakistan's imposition of emergency rule.

Police armed with tear gas and clubs attacked thousands of protesting lawyers in the city of Lahore today, and rounded up lawyers in other cities as the government of the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, faced the first signs of concerted resistance to the imposition of emergency rule on Saturday.

The opposition to emergency rule, which many here are describing as military rule, was led by lawyers, students and journalists. The main opposition political parties, however, mounted no immediate large-scale rallies or protests. The next few days will show whether they can organize in the current highly restrictive atmosphere.
Pakistan officials said an estimated 500 opposition figures have been arrested since emergency rule was imposed at the weekend, although lawyers and analysts said the figure could be far higher, probably around 2000.
Several thousand protesters, mostly lawyers who have led much of the opposition against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, continue to clash with police in Pakistan today.

In Lahore, police used tear gas and stones in an attempt to quell the protesters. Dozens of them were arrested, but they remained defiant...

Today, the Musharraf government deployed police forces and threatened political opponents with more arrests.

An estimated 150 lawyers were arrested in Lahore after a pitched battle between police and lawyers who stood on the roof of the High Court throwing stones at the police below. Some of the lawyers had bleeding heads as they were shoved into police vans, and some fainted in the clouds of tear gas. In Multan, another city in the province of Punjab, two new judges who had taken the oath of office under emergency rule Sunday were forced to leave the courtroom by hundreds of angry lawyers.

"We threatened them, saying: ‘You’ve taken an unconstitutional oath, if you don’t go we will throw eggs at you.’ They left,” said a lawyer from Multan, Riaz Gilani.

Lawyers in the capital, Islamabad, and the nearby garrison town of Rawalpindi said they did not go to the courts because they were warned they would be arrested and possibly beaten.
Police fired tear gas and battered thousands of lawyers protesting President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule, as Western allies threatened to review aid to the troubled Muslim nation. More than 1,500 people have been arrested in 48 hours, and authorities put a stranglehold on independent media.
Though public anger was mounting in the nation of 160 million people, which has been under military rule for much of its 60-year history, demonstrations so far have been limited largely to activists, rights workers and lawyers. All have been quickly and sometimes brutally stamped out.
In Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, the scene was much calmer, but lawyers gathered outside the district courthouse to plot their next move. Meanwhile, busloads of Pakistani police were brought in and machine gun positions set up.

"We have decided to struggle and fight until the registration of judges, until the registration of basic and fundamental rights, until the withdrawal of martial law," lawyer Hanuna Rashid told ABC News' Martha Raddatz. "We will fight in the streets, we will fight in the roads."

Outside the court, police appeared to be leading away the head of the country's bar association, but when ABC News arrived with cameras, the police disappeared. The protesters say, however, that arrest could come at any time.

"Every lawyer is expecting to be arrested," Rashid said.
For more background, please see the following posts:

Emergency In Pakistan: Destroying Democracy In Order To Save It

Protecting Democracy : Hundreds Of Pakistani Lawyers And Activists Arrested As Clampdown Continues

And for a look at these developments in a larger context, please see this remarkable post from Chris Floyd:

Loss Leader: Terror War Dividends From Pakistani Breakdown