Pakistani Police Prevent Lawyer Protests
Monday, November 5, 2007; 2:57 AM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Hundreds of police firing tear gas and swinging batons clashed with lawyers Monday as security forces across Pakistan blockaded courts to prevent protests against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency.
In the biggest gathering, about 2,000 lawyers congregated at the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore. As lawyers tried to exit onto a main road to stage a rally _ in defiance of a police warnings not to violate a ban on demonstrations _ hundreds of officers stormed inside.
Police swung batons and fired tear gas shells to disperse the lawyers, who responded by throwing stones and beating police with tree branches. The protesters shouted, "Go Musharraf Go!"
Police bundled about 250 lawyers into waiting vans, an Associated Press reporter saw. At least two were bleeding from the head.
"The lawyers initiated trouble by throwing stones at police, and it forced us to take action against them," said Aftab Cheema, the city police chief.
Sarfraz Cheema, a senior lawyer at the rally, condemned the police action. "This police brutality against peaceful lawyers shows how the government of a dictator wants to silence those who are against dictatorship," he said. "We don't accept the proclamation of emergency."
Smaller clashes were reported in Karachi and Multan as lawyers in major cities attempted to stage protests against Musharraf's emergency declaration on Saturday which he says was a response to growing militant Islamic movement and a court system that hindered his powers.
On Sunday, Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government said that parliamentary elections could be delayed up to a year as it tries to stamp out a growing Islamic militant threat _ effectively linking two of the greatest concerns of Pakistan's biggest international donors: the United States and Britain.
Increasingly concerned about the unfolding crisis, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington was reviewing billions of dollars in aid to its close terrorism-fighting ally. Britain is also examining its assistance.
"Some of the aid that goes to Pakistan is directly related to the counterterrorism mission," Rice told reporters traveling with her. "We just have to review the situation."
But, she said, she did not expect the U.S. "to ignore or set aside our concerns about terrorism."
In the southern city of Karachi, police used batons on Monday to drive more than 100 lawyers out of the compound of the provincial high court and then arrested them, said Rashid Rizvi, a senior lawyer and former judge.