* Only a few hundred lawyers participate in rally dominated by JI, PTI workers
By Rana Tanveer
LAHORE: The Mall had been routinely inundated with thousands of anti-Musharraf protesters following the suspension and then ousting of Supreme Court chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, last year.
However, since the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), along with their allies, assumed the role of government – the rallies appear to have lost their ‘bang’, with their impact being reduced to mere tremors.
The most recent example of this was the rally this Thursday, called by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) to reiterate its demand that the sacked judiciary be restored and the incumbent judges of the apex court be removed. The protest boasted only a couple of hundred of participating lawyers – a far cry from the thousands of members of the legal fraternity who had gathered every week during the civil society uprising against the previous regime’s crackdown on the judiciary.
JI and PTI dominate: While the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – both of which had boycotted February’s general elections – had been previously banned by the protesting lawyers from participating in their rallies, Thursday’s protest saw these two parties dominating the event, with a combined strength of around 2,500 members. Indeed, JI and PTI flags were seen across the horizon, making it appear as if the two parties had themselves called the rally and the protesting lawyers were simply tagging along. JI workers played anti-government songs over loudspeakers installed on vans, while providing water to the protesters.
PML-N leader Makhdoom Javed Hashmi was the only representative of his party at the rally, while not one single member of the PPP was present. Other political party members were from the Khaksaar Tehreek, Labour Party and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.
Lawyers’ U-turn: When the rallies started last year, lawyers would not allow political party workers to march with them or even hoist their flags. This time, however, the lawyers allowed political workers to do just this, perhaps in a bid to send the message that they had not lost support for their cause.
Advocate Muhammad Irfan told Daily Times that he believed there was no harm in allowing political workers to participate in the lawyers’ rallies, as their cause overlapped with that of the legal fraternity.
On the absence of PML-N members, Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) Secretary Rana Asadullah said that the party had told the lawyers that its workers would not take part. “The PML-N is part of the Punjab government. How can it protest against itself?” he asked.
JI rejects claims, pledges nationwide strikes: JI Deputy Chairman Farhan Shaukat told Daily Times that party workers had been summoned from Gujranwala and Sheikhupura on the instructions of the JI leadership. He dismissed the impression that the JI was actively taking part in the rallies to oust a democratic government. “We have always been with the lawyers,” he stressed.
Farhan also denounced the PML-N and PPP, alleging that the leaders of these parties were deliberately prolonging the judges’ issue to benefit a dictator. He said that the two parties had vowed to restore the sacked judges upon their election to parliament. “They have been elected, but are now using various tactics to deviate from what they had pledged. “The JI will take out independent rallies countrywide if the sacked judges are not restored by May 12,” he added. Rally participants shouted anti-Musharraf slogans and accused the two main political parties of siding with him.
Source: Daily Times, 9/5/2008