South Asia News
Dozens wounded in anti-emergency protests in Pakistan
Nov 5, 2007, 10:04 GMT
A policeman on guard in a police van in front of the Civil court as lawyers boycott courts and stage rallies countrywide to protest against the Emergency rule in Hyderabad, Pakistan, 05 November 2007. Dozens of people were injured on Monday when riot police used tear gas and baton-charged hundreds of lawyers who were holding protest rallies in several Pakistani cities against the weekend proclamation of a state of emergency by President Pervez Musharraf. EPA/NADEEM KHAWER
Islamabad - Dozens of people were injured on Monday when riot police used tear gas and baton-charged hundreds of lawyers who were holding protest rallies in several Pakistani cities against the weekend proclamation of a state of emergency by President Pervez Musharraf.
'The police harshly beat us up with the batons and more than a dozen lawyers were wounded,' lawyer Muddasar Ali told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa from the high court building in the Punjab provincial capital Lahore, where more than 2,000 lawyers had gathered.
The clashes erupted when the lawyers chanted slogans such as 'go Musharraf go' and 'Military dictatorship unacceptable,' and tried to hold a rally on Mall Road, the main avenue in the city centre. But police fired several rounds of tear gas, leaving dozens of lawyers briefly unconscious.
The witnesses said they saw many protesters being pushed into police vans and whisked away. City police chief Aftab Cheema confirmed the arrests without giving a number.
'We arrested them because they were violating a ban on public gathering of five or more than five people,' he said.
The clashes also occurred in the southern port city of Karachi, where dozens of lawyers were arrested when they tried to enter into the high court building, surrounded by hundreds of lawyers.
'Police beat us ruthlessly when we came to the Singh High Court building in the morning and arrested a few dozen of our colleagues,' lawyer Akhtar Hussain said.
The legal fraternity boycotted the court proceedings across the country and similar rallies were also held in Rawalpindi and the capital city, Islamabad.
The demonstrations came a day after law enforcement agencies detained hundreds of opposition workers, rights activists and lawyers throughout the country for criticizing Musharraf's emergency move.
Musharraf, who took over in a bloodless military coup in 1999, partially suspended the country's constitution Saturday, curtailed civil rights and replaced top members of the judiciary who he saw as a threat to his rule.
But the judiciary remained defiant as the overwhelming majority of the Supreme Court and four high court judges did not take oath under a Provisional Constitutional Order that Musharraf promulgated in his capacity as army chief to replace the national constitution.
Fourteen judges in Islamabad were placed under house arrest on Monday as they had announced their intention to attend their offices in the Supreme Court building, which was sealed off by more than 2,000 security personnel.
All the linking roads around neighbouring president's office and parliament building were also cordoned off by security personnel who set up barbed wire barriers.
The country's major stock index, meanwhile, plunged in the afternoon amid rumours that Musharraf had been placed under house arrest in a military rebellion against him.
Investors at the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) dumped shares, pulling the KSE-100 index down by more than 650 points or 4.7 per cent.
The rumours about the mutiny were promptly denied by the military.
'These are just baseless rumours. The situation is normal and President Musharraf is functioning as usual.' the military's chief spokesman Major Genernal Waheed Arshad told dpa.
The international community has reacted with sharp criticism of Musharraf's declaration of emergency and expressed concern over political turmoil in Pakistan, which is scheduled to hold national elections in January.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Sunday for a 'prompt return to a constitutional course' and for all parties to show restraint.
'The United States does not support and communicated to the Pakistani leadership prior to this action that it would not support extra constitutional means,' Rice said while speaking ahead of a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur