Islamabad blockaded, but lawyers confident of holding protestJune 11th, 2008 - 10:29 pm ICT by IANS
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, June 11 (IANS) The Pakistani government fortified Islamabad Wednesday to prevent a group of lawyers, activists and lay people, demanding reinstatement of judges sacked by the president last year, from marching into the city. However, lawyers here claimed about 10,000 of them were living in hiding in the capital and would carry the movement forward. President Pervez Musharraf had sacked more than 60 judges of the superior courts, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, on Nov 3, 2007.
The lawyers started their four-day march - dubbed the “Long March” - Monday from Karachi and Quetta with hundreds of people riding vehicles and chanting slogans “Go Musharraf, go” and “Struggle will continue until restoration of judges”. The protesters are expected to reach Islamabad Friday.
“There will be thousands of us by the time we reach Islamabad,” Supreme Court Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan, who leads the lawyers’ movement, told IANS on phone from Multan. He added that the administration’s attempts to fortify Islamabad was a sign of the lawyers’ success.
The PML-N, which is in power in Punjab, has given a free hand to the lawyers for the march. However, the PPP government in Islamabad has blocked roads leading to the presidency by putting up large containers. Traffic movement near the parliament and Supreme Court has also been restricted. The lawyers have threatened to hold a large demonstration in front of the presidency and the parliament complex Friday.
The entry points to Islamabad were being heavily guarded and all vehicles entering the city were being thoroughly searched to prevent lawyers from entering the capital.
A police officer said a security plan was in place and no one would be allowed to disrupt the law and order situation.
However, a lawyer in Islamabad claimed that about 10,000 protesters were already in the capital and would take to the streets if the main group is prevented from entering Islamabad.
“Most of the lawyers are taking part in the Long March. But a second cadre is underground. If the main leaders are arrested we will take up the protest and keep it alive till the judges are restored,” the lawyer said.
Ahsan said the protesters were not against the present coalition government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Asserting that the sole purpose of the march was to create awareness among all sections of society, he said the people were anxious to see the deposed judges back in their posts.
Ahsan said the lawyers and participants in the march would not be provoked and anyone resorting to violence or exhorting for it would be identified, isolated and asked to leave the march. There would also not be any storming of buildings or damage to property during the march.
Meanwhile, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif told reporters here that the lawyers’ movement had became the voice of the nation and people from all sections of society were participating in the protest. So it was not possible for any one to stop it by putting containers on roads or erecting barriers.
There were reports that the provincial governments, especially that of Punjab, had rejected the federal government’s request to send policemen to Islamabad to help the capital’s administration.
Tags: aitzaz ahsan, association president, chief justice iftikhar, chief justice iftikhar chaudhry, justice iftikhar chaudhry, law and order, multan, najeeb, pakistani government, pervez musharraf, pml n, ppp government, president pervez musharraf, quetta, reinstatement, security plan, superior courts, supreme court bar, supreme court chief justice, traffic movement