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Lawyers, police clash outside Pakistan Supreme Court

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Pakistan in ferment: Police use force to disperse a protest by lawyers in Islamabad on Saturday.
Pakistan in ferment: Police use force to disperse a protest by lawyers in Islamabad on Saturday.

Nirupama Subramanian

Chief Election Commissioner accepts Musharraf’s nomination

ISLAMABAD: Several lawyers and journalists were injured and a Minister was beaten up as hundreds of anti-government lawyers and police clashed outside the Supreme Court on Saturday.

Earlier, the Chief Election Commissioner accepted the nomination of President Pervez Musharraf and rejected the objections to his eligibility.

The objections were raised by Justice (retd.) Wajihuddin Ahmed and Pakistan People’s Party deputy leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the other two candidates. Their nominations were also accepted.

Mr. Ahmed and Mr. Fahim announced separately that they would file constitutional petitions in the Supreme Court on Monday against the rejection of their objections.

The court on Friday dismissed a set of constitutional petitions challenging Gen. Musharraf’s candidature as “not maintainable” but did not go into the substance of the petitions about his holding dual office and his eligibility to contest while in uniform.

Protest march

On Saturday, the police fired several rounds of teargas and baton-charged about 500 lawyers who gathered outside the court in the morning for a protest march to the Election Commission, less than 500 metres away.

The protest was against the verdict and the acceptance of Gen. Musharraf’s nomination. Some activists of the Pakistan People’s Party, the Jamat-i-Islami and the Awami National Party also took part in the protest.

Ranged against the protesters were nearly 2,000 policemen.

More than two dozen lawyers were injured as stones and teargas shells flew and the police swung their canes at the protesters. Young lawyers covered legal luminary Aitzaz Ahsan as the police threw stones at him. Eminent human rights advocate Asma Jehangir’s clothes were stained with the blood of a lawyer who was standing next to her and was felled by a baton.

Several leading lawyers were arrested and released after a few hours, including Ali Ahmed Kurd who set off the day’s agitation.The police did not spare journalists either, six of whom were injured. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists called a “Black Day” for Sunday.

Journalists beat up Minister of State Tariq Azeem when he arrived on the scene in an ambulance.

Demonstrations by lawyers in other cities such as Karachi and Peshawar also turned violent.

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