Pakistani writers, rights activists join lawyers’ protests


Islamabad : Ahmad Faraz, a poet well-known in the world of Urdu poetry, Wednesday led a group of writers that joined lawyers and human rights activists in support of Pakistan’s suspended top judge Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, shouting slogans against the government.

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Also demonstrating in Lahore was the country’s top human rights activist, Asma Jahangir, as the Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) simultaneously took up Chaudhry’s case.

Among others participating were members of the NGOs and relatives of some of the 190 people being described as “missing” or “disappeared” as they have allegedly been picked up by the government’s intelligence agencies for questioning and are being held illegally.

Chaudhry had passed severe strictures against the government for being unable to locate these people a day before he was suspended for alleged misuse of office to promote his son.

Faraz, who had declined a top honour from the government some weeks ago, told reporters that he and other writers believed the government had violated the constitution and now they were against the government, the Daily Times said.

He said every conscious person should join the anti-government campaign.

The relatives of missing persons held portraits of their loved ones as they massed outside the Supreme Court building.

The mother of mechanical engineer Faisal Faraz, who has been missing for the last two years, said her son was her only hope. She said secret agencies had picked him up and since then she had suffered continuing psychological trauma, NNI news agency said.

A former minister for religious minorities, J. Salik, also joined the protests. Chaudhry’s suspension March 9 has triggered nationwide protests that are continuing as they complete two months, media reports noted Thursday. However, the numbers have varied from city to city.

Contrary to claims by lawyers that Wednesday’s rally would be the largest ever, attendance remained thin and not more than 2,000 people were at the protest at any given time. This number is far less than that of previous rallies.

In Islamabad, some 5,000 lawyers and political activists staged forceful protests as the SJC resumed proceedings in the presidential reference against the chief justice. The turnout was expected to be lower in the scorching heat and after police arrested hundreds of opposition activists ahead of the protests.

Seven lawyers staged a protest walk all the way from Lahore and joined their colleagues in front of the Supreme Court building as Chaudhry faced the presidential reference.

The group’s leader Syed Azhar Hussain told Daily Times that the lawyers had walked to Islamabad to show solidarity with Chaudhry. They set out from Lahore April 23.