Incensed by Monday’s killing of their two colleagues, lawyers burnt down a police post outside the Punjab Assembly in an attempt to storm the building on Tuesday as the legal fraternity staged protests in all major towns and cities of the country.
Protesting lawyers in Lahore blocked Mall Road and marched to the Punjab Assembly building where they kicked the main gate, hurled stones at the building and tried to scale the boundary wall – all the while shouting slogans against the government.
The protest came a day after Daska Bar Association President Rana Khalid Abbas and Advocate Irfan Chauhan were killed and two other lawyers wounded in police firing on a group of lawyers in Sialkot.
Lahore High Court Bar Association President (LHCBA) Pir Masood Chishti and Lahore Bar Association Senior Vice President Muhammad Jahangir Bhatti led Tuesday’s protest rally. After their abortive attempt to storm the Punjab Assembly building, the lawyers returned to E-Plomer Chowk, where they staged a sit-in and also tried to set fire to a police van.
Not even pedestrians and motorists were safe from their anger. When people tried removing or passing through the roadblocks, the protesting lawyers hurled abuses at them. As soon as a police van drove in, the lawyers surrounded the vehicle and vandalised it. Then they pushed the van and turned it over before setting it on fire, which was doused almost immediately.
The three policemen who were travelling in the van remained unhurt. Liaquat Ali, an accountant, said he was on his way to the AG office with his colleague Muhammad Younas and driver Nasir to discuss a salary issue when the lawyers attacked their van.
On the directives of Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Manzoor A Malik, contingents of the paramilitary Rangers were deployed at the LHC, while police officials were advised against being seen in uniform on the court’s premises.
The legal fraternity of Sialkot also staged a protest against the killings. They attacked the offices of the DPO and the DCO. Police used teargas shells to disperse the protesters. Sialkot District Bar Association (SDBA) President Khwaja Owais Mushtaq said Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s silence over the killings was questionable. He announced cancelling the minister’s bar membership.
In the twin-cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, lawyers organised protests and condolence references, and boycotted courts to condemn the killing of their colleagues. Rawalpindi District Bar Association President GM Shah called for “exemplary punishment for the police officer who killed unarmed lawyers”.
The lawyers demanded resignations of Punjab Home Minister Col (retd) Shuja Khanzada and provincial police chief Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera. Sindh’s lawyers also boycotted court proceedings across the province. The Karachi Bar Association held a general body meeting to condemn the killings, while proceedings of the Sindh High Court, the district and sessions courts and other subordinate courts in Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas divisions were boycotted.
The legal fraternity of Balochistan boycotted courts in Quetta and elsewhere in the province. Balochistan Bar Association President Bilal Anwar Kasi said the Punjab government should form a judicial commission to probe the incident.
Judicial inquiry withdrawn
The Punjab government had decided to form a judicial commission for investigating into the lawyers’ killings. However, expressing his reservations on the government’s decision, LHCBA President Pir Masood Chishti said no one from the country’s legal fraternity would accept the judicial body.
“A judicial commission is required when the perpetrators of a crime are unidentified,” Chishti said. “However, there is no need to ascertain who killed our colleagues. Everyone knows who is responsible.”
Taking back its decision, the provincial government said the case would be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act. “A five-member joint investigation team has already launched an investigation into the incident.”
Slain lawyers laid to rest
The funeral prayers for the slain lawyers were offered in their hometowns near Daska. Rana Khalid Abbas was buried in Sikhanwala and Irfan Chauhan in Changa. The funerals were attended by hundreds of people.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2015.