Police on Monday fired tear gas and water cannon on protesting lawyers who had gathered at the Lahore High Court (LHC) where contempt of court proceedings were underway against the president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association’s (LHCBA) Multan chapter.
A large number of lawyers resorted to violence and protest after the court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for LHCBA Multan president Sher Zaman Qureshi. The court also issued directions for the suspension of licences of Qureshi and Syed Qaiser Abbas Kazmi.
Qureshi along with some lawyers had allegedly misbehaved with Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan in Multan during court proceedings last month.
LHC Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had taken a strong notice of the lawyers’ misbehaviour and constituted a committee to probe the matter.
The lawyers on Monday threw stones at law enforcement personnel, dislodged an iron-grill gate inside the court and chanted slogans inside the court premises. Their attempt to storm the CJ block was thwarted as anti-riot police used tear gas and water cannon to force them out of the court premises.
The lawyers then continued their protest at the Mall Road, which was subsequently blocked for traffic.
The lawyers’ clash with law enforcement 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 cannon after the lawyers gave the assurance that they would continue their protest peacefully.
According to rescue sources, 10 people including seven lawyers sustained injuries during the clash. They were shifted to Lahore’s Mayo Hospital.
‘Protest to continue until CJ is replaced’
LHCBA President Zulfiqar Chaudhry meanwhile announced that lawyers would observe a strike across Punjab on Tuesday (tomorrow).
He warned that by acting against lawyers, the authorities are taking the situation to a point where “things will no longer be in their control”.
The protesting lawyers told DawnNews that would stage 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 while talking to DawnNews 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 stop using violent means of protest “for some political gains”.
In an incident that took place on July 24 last, lawyers Qureshi and Kazmi along with others had initially misbehaved with Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan and obstructed judicial proceedings of his court in Multan bench and afterwards 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, i.e. Lahore, and the Bahawalpur bench for the dispensation of justice.
Though the Multan bench was restored after a few days, lawyers are still on strike.
During one of the hearings this month, a group of lawyers had barged into LHC Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah’s courtroom and created a hostile situation for the bench holding contempt of court proceedings.
While Kazmi had joined the contempt proceedings before the larger bench at initial stage, Qureshi did not comply with the contempt notice.