Sunday, May 06, 2007

Pakistan: lawyers' revolt lights the fuse


As I reported earlier, general secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan, Farook Tariq has been arrested by the military government of President Pervez Musharraf. Farook was arrested because of his role in organising protests in support of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who has built a reputation for challenging human rights abuses and government wrongdoing.

Today, tens of thousands demonstrated in Lahore. Lahore is the capital of the Punjab, the headquarters of Pakistan's legal community, and the base of President Musharraf's political party, the Pakistan Muslim League. Here is the BBC report .

The authority of the government has been undermined by a show of opposition from the judiciary, defending their independence. According to the Nation a majority of judges from Lahore’s high court were attending a reception in support of Chaudrey, including six out of the seven most senior judges who sit on the administration Committee of the court.

The defiance of the judiciary for the military government has given confidence to ordinary workers and the poor to join the protests, in a carnival of definace. The Daily Times reports :

“The chief justice, sitting in a vehicle driven by his lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, set out from Islamabad in a convoy of around 30 cars displaying black flags at around 7:45am, ignoring the government’s advice that he [should not] travel by road. The convoy had swelled to over 200 cars and was several kilometres long by the time it reached Ravi Bridge at around 5:00am on Sunday morning, a journey that would normally take four hours taking almost 21 hours. Thousands of opposition supporters and lawyers stayed up all night in anticipation … thousands lining the streets and chanting anti-government slogans, playing drums and setting off fireworks. Jubilant supporters clutching their children struggled through a boisterous crowd in Gujranwala to see Justice Chaudhry as his car passed by. In Gujrat city, a white horse pranced in front of his car and fireworks exploded as his convoy edged through the crowds”

The photographs of the demonstration show the role of socialists, and especially socialist women. Thanks to the Labour Education Foundation of Pakistan for these.

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