Pakistan government detains hundreds of lawyers, rights activists in security sweep

[JURIST] Pakistani police and security services detained hundreds of lawyers, rights activists and opposition figures Saturday and Sunday in a clampdown following President Pervez Musharraf's Saturday proclamation of emergency rule [JURIST report]. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Sunday that up to 500 people had been arrested in the previous 24-hour period. Among the current detainees are former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry (reportedly under house arrest after being dismissed from office [JURIST report] Saturday), Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan [Post report], and Asma Jehangir, chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [advocacy website]. Jehangir was detained Sunday after some 200 police reportedly stormed the commission's Lahore headquarters, arresting some 50 activists. Sindh High Court Bar Association President Abrar Hasan and Malir Bar Association President Zahoor Mehr were also arrested as police conducted raids on lawyers' houses. Other prominent lawyers were arrested in Peshawar and Quetta.

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The Supreme Court Bar Association and other Pakistani bar groups have called a nationwide lawyers strike and courts boycott [ANI report] on Monday to protest the emergency, the suspension of the constitution, and the dismissal of the Supreme Court. The mobilization of the lawyers follows the success of their movement [backgrounder] earlier this year for the reinstatement of now former chief justice Chaudhry after he was suspended by Musharraf in March for alleged misconduct.

Despite the mass detentions, Pakistani Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum continued Sunday to reject claims by legal experts and prominent opposition figures that martial law had been imposed in the country. Echoing comments made by another government minister Saturday, Qayyum pointed out that the Prime Minister was still in office and that the country's parliament would complete its term. AP has more.

 

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