Pakistan lawyers fight police, “Musharraf’s must hang”

Hurling bricks and glass bottles, Pakistani lawyers and police clashed in the eastern city of Lahore as President Pervez Musharraf was sworn in for a second term on Thursday, amid demands he be hanged.Chanting “Go, Musharraf, Go!”, at least 250 lawyers in black suits and white shirts tried to push their way past riot police who fought them back with batons outside the Lahore law courts.

Bricks plucked from the complex walls and used as missiles lay strewn on the ground with shards of broken glass bottles. The “House of Justice” signboard outside the court lay broken.

“We are not scared. We don’t accept Musharraf even without his uniform. He has to go,” said lawyer Malik Mohammad Arshad, eye swollen and head bleeding after a brick hit him on the head.

Eleven lawyers and three policemen were injured in the melee, and three lawyers were arrested, officials said.

Others went further still.

“Allah, help us remove Musharraf,” screamed Aftab Rahim, a civil and criminal lawyer running for vice president of the Lahore Bar, thrusting his fist in the air to stir up the crowd.

“Under article 6 of the constitution, he should be tried and the death sentence should be awarded to him,” he said. “He imposed martial law under the garb of emergency rule and broke the constitution. We are demanding the restoration of the judiciary. We want supremacy of the law, not a dictatorship.”

LAWYERS THE SPEARHEAD

Lawyers spearheaded protests against Musharraf’s imposition of emergency rule on November 3, when he suspended the constitution and purged the Supreme Court in a bid to safeguard his re-election. Thousands of lawyers and activists who opposed him were rounded up.

Lawyers had earlier led mass protests against Musharraf after he sought to sack the independent-minded chief justice in March. Many saw the move as the beginning of the end for the former army chief who took power in a bloodless 1999 coup.

Several of the Supreme Court judges he ousted remain under house arrest. Lawyers in Lahore refuse to recognize Musharraf’s hand-picked new bench, which quickly struck down challenges to his re-election, paving the way for him to be sworn in for a second term on Thursday, the day after he finally quit as army chief.

“We want Musharraf to be tried. He should be impeached. He should be hanged,” said 27-year-old lawyer Malik Abdullah Raza. Behind him others chanted: “We should control Musharraf, he should be tied up!”

“We don’t accept him as a civilian president. He is a dictator,” Raza added.

The lawyers called on the two main opposition leaders, former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, to boycott a general election due in early January, to further isolate Musharraf.

“Our battle is to block military intervention for ever,” said Syed Mohammad, president of the Lahore bar association, as police began to allow the lawyers out of the complex to protest in the street outside.

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