LAHORE/MULTAN: Lawyers across the country have pledged a strike tomorrow, along with demonstrations, to protest ‘police high-handedness’ and ‘unjust’ court ruling after the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday ordered the arrest of a legal fraternity leader.
LHC Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, hearing a contempt case against Sher Zaman Qureshi and, head of the bar association of LHC Multan bench, and another lawyer Qaiser Abbas Kazmi, ordered police to arrest and produce Qureshi on Tuesday (tomorrow).
The bench also ordered the suspension of the lawyers’ licences. 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’.
Following the order, enraged lawyers loyal to Qureshi attempted to forcibly enter the courtroom, breaking the gate of a corridor and chanted slogans against the chief justice inside the LHC building.
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.
Authorities used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesting lawyers while members of the legal fraternity pelted stones at the LHC building and police personnel protecting it.
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 LHC bar association, along with other bar bodies across the country, has called for a country-wide a strike tomorrow. Members of the bar addressed a press conference in Lahore following the incident and urged members of the fraternity to support their cause.
In Multan, lawyers of the high court and lower courts began protesting against the incident in Lahore at Multan’s Kacheri Chowk as news got out.
The Multan city police officer (CPO) 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 earlier today.
The CPO said Qureshi will be arrested by all means and produced in the LHC tomorrow.
However, lawyers based in Multan said Qureshi would himself appear before the LHC chief justice if warrants of his arrest are withdrawn. They denied Qureshi had run away and claimed he is ‘among them’.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Geo News the government is attempting to resolve the issue peacefully.
Replying to a question, he said authorities are exercising caution in their response in Lahore today so as to avoid an even violent reaction by the legal community across the country tomorrow.
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 tomorrow (Tuesday) against the ‘Lahore incident’. Karachi Bar Association President Naeem Qureshi said lawyers would hold a protest on MA Jinnah road at 11am tomorrow.