ISLAMABAD: Even as efforts were on to pull back Pakistan’s two warring political parties from the brink of a confrontation on the streets, in Karachi police sealed a major highway to prevent a large group of lawyers from travelling towards Lahore to join the “long march” by lawyers and Opposition political groups to Islamabad to demand the restoration of the deposed Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhary.
Police baton-charged and arrested scores of lawyers as they tried to break through barricades at a toll plaza on the highway towards Hyderabad.
Meanwhile, police were massed on the Sindh-Balochistan border to block a large contingent of lawyers going from Quetta to Lahore.
In Lahore, lawyers scuffled with police during a “mobilisation” rally. Aitzaz Ahasan, a prominent leader of the legal community, told followers that if police tried to stop them during the long march, they should resist “as much as possible,” and in the last resort, must stage dharnas wherever they were stopped.
Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik told the National Assembly that the government would not make any attempt to prevent the rally, but said attempts to disturb peace would not be tolerated.
Sources in the Pakistan People’s Party said “some important political developments” were possible in the next 24 hours to ease the situation.
A highly-placed party source ruled out the possibility of Mr. Chaudhary’s reappointment as Chief Justice as he had become “too political,” A possible solution, he said, could be his appointment as head of a proposed “constitutional court.”