Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: The movement for the restoration of the pre-November 3 judiciary took a turn on Monday when lawyers spearheading the struggle filed an application at a police station to register a criminal case against President Pervez Musharraf and government functionaries for alleged trespass, wrongful restraint and confinement of the ousted Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhary, and several other judges.

The move came hours after Aitzaz Ahsan, the firebrand lawyer who has led the lawyers’ agitation from last March, announced in Lahore that he would file First Information Reports against retired General Musharraf, the Interior Minister and a host of officials including police officers for what he described as the “illegal” detention of Mr. Chaudhary.

Mr. Ahsan was released from house arrest on Sunday after four months of detention. He said the Supreme Court Bar Association, which he heads, had put on hold a proposed “long march” to the capital to give time to the new Parliament to fulfil its promise to restore the judges.

But he announced that from March 9, the day on which General (retd.) Musharraf first tried to remove Mr. Chaudhary in 2007, the legal community will observe a “black flag week” to highlight its demand for the restoration of the judiciary as it was before the November 3 imposition of emergency rule.

In the capital, events began unfolding after reports of a government announcement that the families of Mr. Chaudhary and three other judges, who have been confined to their homes in an undeclared house arrest since November 3, were now free to move as they pleased.

A contingent of lawyers and journalists rushed to the Judges Enclave, which has been barricaded for the last four months, to meet the families of the judges. But the barricades and barbed wire were still in place and police officials said the order was meant only to enable the children of the judges to attend school from Tuesday.

At this the lawyers tried to push past the massed riot police guarding the barricades. The police responded with several rounds of tear gas which enveloped the entire area for several minutes. The lawyers then moved to a nearby police station,and submitted an application for filing an FIR against General (retd) Musharraf, the Interior Minister, the Interior Secretary and government and police officials of Islamabad.