Lawyers to continue long march, Sharif under house arrest


Islamabad : Defiant lawyers Sunday gathered outside the Lahore High Court and broke down its gate to continue their ‘long march’ to demand reinstatement of judges sacked two years ago as former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other political leaders were placed under house arrest.

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After breaking down the gate, the lawyers and political activists marched ahead to the GPO chowk, where security personnel lobbed tear gas shells on them, Dawn TV reported.

“Lawyers have reached GPO chowk to take part in the long march after smashing the gate of Lahore High Court,” Geo TV reported.

The large number of lawyers removed the barricades to reach GPO chowk. They were later joined by political workers and representatives of civil society.

In a move to stem further political trouble, the government placed Nawaz Sharif and other opposition leaders under house arrest for three days.

A posse of police personnel were deployed outside the Model Town residence of the Pakistan Muslim League-N leader in Lahore. The PML-N is to participate in a sit-in in Islamabad Monday to demand restoration of the sacked judges.

Punjab Police also placed under house arrest Jamat-e-Islami (JI) chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed and cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf party.

Inter-city transport came to a halt as the administration stopped buses from operating, causing inconvenience to thousands of people. Truck drivers also suspended their operation, affecting business and trade.

The highway police were instructed to search private cars and vehicles.

Apart from highways, the police placed containers and tractor trolleys that they had commandeered on the roads to stop vehicular movement.

The government move comes after Nawaz Sharif late Saturday rejected President Asif Ali Zardari’s offer of seeking a review of a Supreme Court verdict barring him and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from contesting elections and said the lawyers’ stir for reinstating the sacked judges would go ahead nonetheless.

“I am declaring here that come what may, the lawyers’ long march will continue to Islamabad,” Sharif said at a rally in Lahore Saturday night, even as the government earlier in the day asked the army to remain on standby to prevent the protesters from entering the federal capital.

In a major climbdown to end the lawyers’ protest, the Pakistani government had said it would appeal against the Supreme Court ruling on the Sharif brothers and also take steps to reinstate the judges then president Pervez Musharraf sacked after declaring an emergency in November 2007.

Zardari’s reneging on the agreement had prompted Sharif’s PML-N to walk out of the coalition led by the president’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) formed after the February 2008 general elections.