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Police arrest lawyers in Karachi as new long march begins

Article published on the 2009-03-12 Latest update 2009-03-12 15:02 TU

Police arrest a lawyer in Hyderabad(Photo: Reuters)

Police arrest a lawyer in Hyderabad
(Photo: Reuters)

Police in Pakistan baton-charged demonstrating lawyers in Karachi and the southern city of Hyderabad, arresting about 100, at the start of the third "long march" to gain the reinstatement of sacked judges. In Lahore and Quetta, other demonstrations went off relatively peacefully.

About 90 people were detained in Karachi, including Ghafoor Ahmed, the vice-president of the country's biggest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami. Police arrested other demonstrators in Hyderabad, which, like Karachi, is in Sindh province, where the government has banned protests.

Two thousand lawyers, political and rights activists rallied in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, which also comes under the government’s ban.

About 150 lawyers and 250 activists left from the western city of Quetta.

The lawyers have been campaigning for the reinstatement of judges since 2007, when former President Pervez Musharraf sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and about 60 other judges, as he struggled to hold on to power.

Despite backing the lawyers' movement when Musharraf was in power, the ruling People's Party (PPP) has not reinstated Chaudhry and the other judges, causing Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League (PML-N) to walk out of the government.

Sharif and his brother Shahbaz have been banned from standing for election, which led them to call for the government to be booted out of office.

That led President Asif Ali Zardari to ban demonstrations in Punjab and Sindh this week.

"We made a lot of efforts to get rid of the dictator and now the same formula is being applied by the so-called democratic government," says Karachi lawyer Iftikhar Javaid Qazi, who was jailed for protesting under Musharraf's military-led regime.

Qazi was in hiding again on Thursday.

"Last night I was sitting in my office, I got a message from some of my friends that I should not sit there because the police had raided my residence," he told RFI. "Since last night I am out of my own house and keeping myself hidden somewhere."

Reaction: Iftikhar Javaid Qazi of the Sindh Bar Association

12/03/2009 by Salil Sarkar

Qazi points out that Zardari and his wife Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, benefitted from a pardon introduced by Musharraf and believes that the judges might rule the move unconstitutional.

The convoys will now set out on a four-day drive for Islamabad.