Demand CJ’s removal, protest against arrest order of LHCBA Multan president; Police use gas, water cannons against protesters
Lawyers on Monday created a ruckus in Lahore High Court after a full bench ordered arrest of president Multan bench Sher Zaman Qureshi and secretary Qaisar Abbas who failed to appear before the court despite repeated chances in the contempt case.
On learning the orders of full bench, the lawyers gathered at the entrance gate of Chief Justice block
to protest and later went on rampage at premises of the court.
They chanted slogans in favour of Sher Zaman and broke the gate leading to CJ block in a bid to enter. However, the police foiled their attempt and tried to stop the lawyers from entering the premises.
The lawyers in an attempt to enter LHC Chief Justice’s chamber broke the main entrance gate and smashed the walk through gate.
The lawyers also brutally tortured a policeman deployed on duty. Later, they made their way towards Mall Road and blocked the road for traffic in protest.
The main thoroughfare became a battlefield as the lawyers pelted stones on the police personnel. On the other hand, police used water cannons and tear gas to dipserse the protesters. The larger bench of LHC was conducting hearing of the case pertaining to the misbehaviour of lawyers with the Multan bench judges.
LHC Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah headed the bench, whereas, Justice Muhammad Anwaarul Haq, Justice Sayyed Mazahar, Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti and Justice
Shams Mehmood Mirza were its members.
The larger bench while suspending the licences of president Multan bench Sher Zaman Qureshi and secretary Qaisar Abbas, issued non-bailable arrest warrants of both the lawyers.
The bench directed RPO Multan to present the lawyers before the court on Tuesday and declared that they cannot carry their duty in any of Punjab courts.
Prior to the hearing, heavy contingent of police and Rangers was deployed in the premises of LHC.
Protests and ruckus by the lawyers have also erupted in other cities. In Multan, the lawyers stageda protest against the court orders in Kachehri Chowk.
Meanwhile, Sindh Bar Council and Karaci Bar have declared a province-wide strike and have also summoned a general body meeting.
LHC Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had taken strong notice of the lawyers’ misbehaviour and constituted a committee to probe the matter.
The lawyers’ clash with law enforcement officials also disrupted business activities in the area. Nearby shops were closed and the State Bank of Pakistan building was temporarily sealed. Police stopped using tear gas and water cannons after the lawyers gave assurances that they would continue their protest peacefully.
According to rescue sources, 10 people, including seven lawyers, sustained injuries during the clash. LHCBA President Zulfiqar Chaudhry meanwhile announced that lawyers would observe a strike across Punjab on Tuesday. He warned that by acting against lawyers, the authorities were taking the situation to a point where “things would no longer be in their control”.
The protesting lawyers told media that they would hold a protest sit-in outside the court overnight and remain there until the LHC chief justice is replaced.
On the other hand, Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmed Khan, has said provincial authorities “will not let the lawyers hold the judges hostage in any condition”.
He said he had personally requested the LHCBA president to prevent lawyers from using violent means of protest “for political gains”.
On July 24, lawyers Qureshi and Kazmi, along with others, had misbehaved with Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan and obstructed judicial proceedings of his court in Multan bench. Afterwards, they had vandalised and ransacked the court premises and ripped off the name plate of the judge.
Subsequently, the LHC chief justice withdrew judges from the Multan bench in an exercise of his constitutional powers, but made available the principal seat of the LHC, Lahore, and the Bahawalpur bench for the dispensation of justice.
Though the Multan bench was restored after a few days, lawyers have continued their strike. During one of the hearings this month, a group of lawyers had barged into LHC Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah’s courtroom, where a bench was overseeing contempt of court proceedings, and created a hostile situation.
While Kazmi had joined the contempt proceedings before the larger bench at an initial stage, Qureshi had not complied with the contempt notice. The chief justice observed during the hearing that the sanctity of the court is supreme and there will be no compromise on it.
The court termed Qureshi’s conduct ‘most unbecoming and demeaning, that blatantly offends the prestige and honour of this court’.
It also stated that Qureshi is blatantly defying the orders of the court [to appear before it]. The police and Rangers cordoned off the entrance to the courtroom and a tussle between the two sides ensued.
Sources said the protesting lawyers, around 200 in number, included bar members from Multan, Burewala and other areas. They later moved to GPO Chowk and Mall Road in protest, disrupting traffic on one of the most crucial arteries of the Punjab capital.
The Multan city police officer raided Qureshi’s office to arrest him but could not find him there. He then went to the district bar but Qureshi was still nowhere to be seen.
Sources said Qureshi has gone off the grid and was last seen escaping the district bar on a motorcycle.
The CPO said Qureshi will be arrested by all means and produced in the LHC. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told media the government is attempting to resolve the issue peacefully.
Replying to a question, he said authorities are exercising caution in their response in Lahore so as to avoid an even violent reaction by the legal community across the country. In a statement, Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali urged lawyers to remain peaceful.
Later, the bar councils in Balochistan and Sindh also announced a strike today against the ‘Lahore incident’. Karachi Bar Association President Naeem Qureshi said lawyers would hold a protest on MA Jinnah road at 11am.
The larger bench was constituted to proceed against the delinquent lawyers under the law of contempt and High Court Rules and Orders for suspension and/or removal of their practice of the LHC.
The bench on request of bar members gave many opportunities to the HCBA-Multan president but he did not appear before it. On last hearing on August 11, the bench gave him last opportunity to appear while observing that if he failed to appear on August 22 his arrest warrants would be issued.