National Sections of the L5I:

Pakistan: Crisis deepens as lawyers clash with state police

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On 16th – 17th March thousands of lawyers held further protests against the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. The protests have become an outlet for popular discontent with the military regime and there have been a number of clashes with the police.

In Lahore an all Pakistan Lawyer Convention was held in the Lahore High Court (LHC) building – which had effectively been occupied by the movement. On Saturday the Police ruthlessly attacked the convention and four hours of battles ensued.

The clashes began at noon when Police deployed around the LHC prevented a group of lawyers from joining up with their colleagues inside for the convention. In order to confine the lawyers within the premises of the LHC the police started firing tear gas shells towards the protesters into the building. They then attempted to storm the LHC with several armoured vehicles while firing teargas shells and rubber bullets. In return the lawyers threw stones and rocks towards the police. Around sixty lawyers were injured in the four-hour long battle that followed and police made several arrests.

A number of youth had joined the lawyers and helped to defend the movement from the Police attacks. Naturally the lawyers warmly greeted the support. The protesters had begun by demanding an end to the suspension of Chaudhry but now many lawyers are raising openly anti-imperialist and anti-militarist chants. Despite the support of the bourgeois opposition parties a lot of the people we spoke with were rightly full of mistrust for them. The LHC Bar Association plans to observe a complete strike on the 21st March. The increasing pressure on the regime is expressed in the high profile resignation of four lawyers from Musharraf’s Pakistan Muslim League party in and ten judges have resigned their position in protest.

We have been agitating for mass action, blockades and strikes to bring down the regime. Around 500 leaflets were circulated in Urdu (that gave a summary of the position of the article on www.fifthinternational.org) and 100 of the English leaflets were circulated as well. We have made new contacts for Revolution Pakistan and some of these helped us intervene in the actions on Friday and Saturday. These protests must be used to build a mass movement against the military – in particular, winning the support of the trade unions and fighting for them to launch a general strike to bring down the regime will be critical.

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