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Pakistan police clash with lawyers

  • Story Highlights
  • Police, lawyers clash in Lahore; hundreds of lawyers arrested nationwide
  • Bhutto party members, head of largest Islamic party, among detainees
  • Schools used to hold detainees since police stations are now too full
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LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- Wearing black coats and ties, Pakistani lawyers clashed with security forces for a second straight day Tuesday, protesting President Pervez Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency that suspended the country's constitution and shut down the judicial system.

Thousands of lawyers have been jailed as clashes continued for a second day in Pakistan.

Baton-wielding police fought with lawyers outside courthouses in Islamabad and Lahore, arresting dozens more as they enforced a crackdown that began with Musharraf's declaration on Saturday.

"They're the educated professional middle class of the country," said Ayesha Tammy Haq, a Pakistani lawyer currently in hiding. "And if you want to look at a secular liberal organization, there you have it. There you have these smart people, they're educated, and they're being beaten up and dragged off to jail."

Thousands of the nation's lawyers sat in jails Tuesday -- and many judges were under house arrest -- while government officials insisted the declaration was necessary to the country's fight against terrorism and would not derail its slow progress toward democracy.

"We want this country to move forward on the path of democracy," Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Tuesday at the Brands of the Year 2006-2007 awards ceremony in Islamabad, according to the state run news agency Associated Press of Pakistan. "We want this country to have elections and stand in the comity of nations, where people see Pakistan as a true democracy."

"Certain things had to be done," he said. "Nobody has any personal agenda, as it is the national agenda which is being pursued."

During a cabinet meeting Tuesday, Aziz said that he and Musharraf believed "in the independence of the judiciary and said they had the greatest regard and respect for the judiciary," according to the APP.

Opposition leaders, however -- and fired Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry -- accuse Musharraf's government of moving to shut down the judiciary just before the Supreme Court was to rule on a challenge to his election to a third term as president.

The United States, Britain and other countries have urged Musharraf to lift the emergency declaration and return to a constitutional government.

While the United States and Britain have said they are reviewing current aid packages with an eye toward possible withdrawal, only the Netherlands has cut off financial aid to Pakistan.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto arrived in Islamabad from Karachi Tuesday for meetings with other opposition leaders about how to respond to Musharraf's declaration.

"I don't think we have time," she told reporters. "And I don't think we should give time. I think we should all come down as strongly as we can for the restoration of democracy."

Crowds of her supporters lined the streets as Bhutto entered the city, waving to them from an open-top car.

Authorities in Punjab province have barred a rally Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party had scheduled for Friday, however. A spokesman for the government said that large public gatherings are "generally inadvisable and the political parties should refrain from holding public meetings and rallies. "

Bhutto, who is seeking the prime minister's post in parliamentary elections that had been scheduled for January, said she is no longer talking with Musharraf about any kind of power-sharing deal. But officials from her party said advisors for the two are in touch.

In a telephone call from his home, where he was under house arrest, Chaudhry -- who was fired Saturday by Musharraf -- urged lawyers to go to "every corner of Pakistan and give the message that this is the time to sacrifice."

Later, asked if he had a message for Musharraf, he told CNNI, "He should restore the judiciary, which was working independently in this country for the strengthening of the institution of democracy."

Chaudhry, who has been confined to his home since Saturday, said that Musharraf's declaration of martial law was likely motivated by his belief that the nation's Supreme Court was preparing to rule his re-election was unconstitutional.

"Otherwise, there was no reason, absolutely no reason, to be doing this," he said.

Opposition attorneys had asked the court to rule on their contention that the Pakistani constitution forbids a sitting military leader from running for president.

Musharraf, who is the Pakistani army's chief of staff as well as the country's president, had promised to relinquish his ties to the military before Nov. 15, when he is expected to take the oath of office for a third time.

On Tuesday, four new Supreme Court justices were sworn in, replacing those -- including Chaudhry -- who were sacked on Saturday.

Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer whether he considers Musharraf to be a dictator, Chaudhry said, "Yes, of course. Who was the person who was not believing in the independence of the judiciary? In the norms of the law? Not allowing judges to work independently? This is only the habit of a dictator."

Chaudhry, who was reinstated to the court in July after Musharraf fired him for the first time, has issued key rulings that have weakened Musharraf's grip on power -- including lifting the exile imposed on opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted in a 1999 bloodless coup. When Sharif attempted last month to return to Pakistan, he was ordered back into exile.

He urged that the United Nations pressure Musharraf to rescind his order and said the declaration of martial law would serve only to strengthen the hand of the terrorists.

But Musharraf's declaration noted a "visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks" and it blamed a judiciary "at cross purposes" with his government's efforts "to control this menace."

An attorney for Musharraf and the chief author of the constitution, Ahmed Raza Kasuri, defended Musharraf's actions.

"What was happening was the government was arresting the terrorists," he told CNNI. "The courts, dealing in judicial activism, were releasing the terrorists."

He likened the situation in Pakistan to the ceding of powers to U.S. President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"You can get a hold of anybody and put them behind bars and folks are left with no option but to accept the orders of the executive," he said.

He said Musharraf's moves had the backing of the "vast majority of the silent majority" who have not taken to the streets, and he predicted the crisis will soon ease.

"You just have to just wait for a few days and everything will be all right," he said. "The whole exercise has been done with the view to control terrorism in Pakistan and the region around."

About 3,000 Pakistani lawyers, rounded up since Saturday, sit in jails across the country with no courts operating to which they can seek release, police sources said.

Police earned cash bonuses for beating and arresting hundreds of lawyers who had gathered Monday outside of Lahore's courthouse, police sources said.

Any lawyer who attempted to enter courthouses in Lahore or Islamabad Tuesday was arrested, witnesses said.

CNN's Zain Verjee said the lawyers were charged with terrorism offenses, and human rights workers and journalists were also among those arrested.

In addition, television news channels -- including CNN and the BBC -- were taken off the air, leaving only state-run television.


Journalists were ordered not to criticize Musharraf, other senior members of government or army officials, she said. Penalties included fines and possible jail sentences of up to three years.

Security forces and barriers were visible along the road leading from the airport to the capital, with troops in place around hotels and the residences of the prime minister and the president, she said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Mohsin Naqvi in Lahore contributed to this report

All About Pervez MusharrafPakistanBenazir BhuttoNawaz Sharif

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