Police arrest hundreds of protesting lawyers in Pakistan

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Islamabad, Nov 5 (UNI) Pakistan police today clashed with lawyers protesting against the imposition of emergency by President Pervez Musharraf and arrested hundreds of them.

Police also fired tear gas shells and baton charged more than 1,000 lawyers in Lahore as they took to streets chanting slogans against Gen Musharraf.

The police has been ordered not to allow any rallies and demonstrations anywhere in the country under the provisional constitutional order (PCO).

Dozens of protestors sustained injuries in the clashes as police dumped them in vans and took them away. District courts in Karachi were also sealed to prevent demonstrations by lawyers as clashes with police have been noticed in the garrison town of Rawalpindi outside district courts.

Meanwhile, police cordoned all roads in the radius of three kilometers of constitution avenue, which houses key buildings including Supreme Court, presidency, parliament, Prime Minister's Secretariat and foreign office. Nobody was allowed to come to the constitution avenue and several other roads as police erected barricades and barbed wires.

Although there was no restriction on movement of people all over Islamabad except constitution avenue yet heavy police contingent deployed all over the city put in place strict security measures.

Most of the 12 judges, who did not take oath under the PCO confirmed being put under house arrest.

Out of the total 17 judges of the Supreme Court, only five took oath on Saturday after imposition of emergency by the president.

Senior most deposed Hindu judge Rana Bhagwandas, while confirming his detention in his house in Islamabad described the PCO as ''illegal and unconstitutional''.

''The order has no legal validity in our eyes,'' he told private Geo TV, adding that the order was contrary to the judgement handed out by a seven-member bench of the court, which had set it aside.

He said the court has the powers to strike down any illegal law or order and the seven judges had exercised these powers Saturday evening.

The deposed judge said those who did not take oath under the order were still valid judges of the apex court.

Another former judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday said he was placed under house-arrest along with his family in Lahore. About reports that the government was unhappy over his inclusion in the bench that was hearing petitions against Gen Musharraf's re-election, he said, ''The government could have asked chief justice to exlude him if it had any reservations about his presence.'' Justice Ramday had headed the 13-member bench that reinstated Justice Chaudhry.

About the president's remarks that the court had been lenient towards terrorists, he said the two judges who gave judgement in the Red Mosque case have already taken oath under the provisional constitutional order.

The government should have stayed itself away from the two judges if their decision was wrong, he stated.

''But it will be inappropriate to hold the court responsible for spread of terrorism,'' he said.

The fast-paced developments came against the backdrop of reports that the parliamentary election, which are due early next year, may be delayed for up to one year, as Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz himself indicated during yesterday's press conference that tenure of the assembly could be extended up to one year.


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