A major show of renewed vigor, strength and conviction in the lawyer and civil society movement for judiciary was demonstrated outside Sind High Court this evening. 23 lawyers and civil society members were brutalized and arrested out of over 250 while they were holding a peaceful protest on self-proclaimed Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar’s visit to Sind High Court.
Those arrested included lawyers from SHCBA, KBA and 6 citizens from PEOPLE’S RESISTANCE.
PCO Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar was visiting Karachi on the last leg of his public relationing tour of Sind. Thursday being the regular protest day for restoration of judiciary, the current PCO Sind High Court organized his visit in the dark of night so that lawyers and civil society members could not come in numbers.
Despite the timing, at about 9 pm, over 250 lawyers and citizens gathered about 500 feet away from the main Sind High Court buildings. They held a passionate demonstration raising slogans in favor of non-functional judiciary and against the foot dragging by the government on their restoration. They were stopped by a large posse of police in riot gear led by two DSPs by creating a wall in front of them. The police asked protesters to disperse saying that their protest has been recorded and asked some lawyers to tell their colleagues that “you are already on TV, now you must go”. Hearing this message, there was an uproar of naaras (slogans) of “High Court or Jail !!”.
As Dogar was not expected to arrive for another hour, the protesters then decided to wait for his arrival.
News came in that, out of fear of facing the protestors, Dogar arrived at the court from the other gate of the building. Lawyers and citizens rushed and started to gather about 150 feet outside that gate and began to line up with placards and banners. As they refused to budge, the police cracked down and brutally hit and pushed those in front. 23 lawyers and citizens including 4 women were thrown into police vans and rushed off to Preedy and Civil Lines police station. “Those who want rule of law in the country are treated as criminals and it is unbelievable that we would see this even in a democratic government”, one of the arrested women shouted when getting arrested.
The protesters were treated well inside the police station except a couple of occasions when they were asked to either surrender or shut off mobile phones. Later, one of the police officers came in and said he believed in the movement and requested everyone to only turn the phone to silent. There was generally a festive mood inside the police stations and a large number of supporters who gathered outside as well.
After about one hour in the police stations, they were told that Dogar had ordered for their release immediately. Everyone in both police station lockups refused to leave saying they did not accept him as the Chief Justice. After about half an hour, when assured that no charges are going to be framed by the police and therefore the question of “Dogar authorized release” does not arise, everyone agreed to go.
Later the protesters returned back to the Sindh High Court and resumed their protest. So far all the activists have been released without any charges. News has it that no one expected a vociferous protest and Dogar had to cut short his speech.
The citizens and lawyers released were in very high spirits and forcefully said that the elected government cannot continue to act against people’s wishes and as if nothing has happened after the decimation of Pakistan’s judiciary at the hands of a dictator. They said it was high time they stopped hurting democracy by condoning the destruction of a pillar of a state.