Pakistan riot police battle lawyers protesting emergency in Lahore

[JURIST]top story Pakistani riot police and security forces fired tear gas at dark-suited lawyers and law students assembled at the High Court in Lahore [official website] Monday and charged them with batons as some 2000 demonstrated against President Pervez Musharraf's Saturday proclamation of emergency rule [JURIST report], suspension of the constitution and dismissal of the country's Supreme Court. The initially-peaceful demonstration in Lahore was part of a nationwide lawyers protest [JURIST reports] called by bar groups Sunday. The protesting lawyers responded to the police violence by throwing stones at the police, beating security officials with tree branches, and throwing back tear gas canisters. The police stopped the protesters from leaving the High Court compound and eventually stormed the buildings including the bar room, the auditoriums, the infirmary and the offices where lawyers had gathered to avoid the tear gas. Several lawyers and judges were injured as they were struck by batons and violently manhandled. An AP reporter saw about 250 lawyers taken away in police vans. Some actively resisted arrest, others gestured defiance after being taken into custody.

One lawyer who was gassed told JURIST afterwards that "it was a horrific day in the history of Lahore High Court":

...the entire premises were crowded by police personnel belonging to the armed forces. Excessive tear gas, excessive baton charges [were used] without any discrimination between old and young, man and woman. Almost 1200 have been arrested.
A law student who was briefly detained said:
It was a horrible example of a police state. When the protesters tried to move out of the high court, the police and various security agencies came into the compound, tear gassed and baton charged brutally. They broke into every place where people were trying to take cover including the high court library and medical centre. Every one there was arrested and taken away in prisoner vans. Even ladies were not spared from the action. Some including a retired lady judge of the high court were injured in the head.
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An observer described Monday's clash between lawyers and police as more violent than those earlier this year when lawyers in Lahore and elsewhere across Pakistan mobilized [backgrounder] to press for the reinstatement of now-dismissed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] after he was suspended by Musharraf in March for alleged misconduct. AP has more. DPA has additional coverage.

 

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