Police fire water cannon as protesting lawyers turn violent at Lahore High Court

Police on Monday fired tear gas and water cannon on protesting lawyers who had gathered at the Lahore High Court (LHC) where contempt of court proceedings were underway against the president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association’s (LHCBA) Multan chapter.

A large number of lawyers resorted to violence and protest after the court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for LHCBA Multan president Sher Zaman Qureshi. The court also issued directions for the suspension of licences of Qureshi and Syed Qaiser Abbas Kazmi.

Anti-riot force personnel are seen at the court.— DawnNews
Anti-riot force personnel are seen at the court.— DawnNews

Qureshi along with some lawyers had allegedly misbehaved with Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan in Multan during court proceedings last month.

LHC Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had taken a strong notice of the lawyers’ misbehaviour and constituted a committee to probe the matter.

The lawyers on Monday threw stones at law enforcement personnel, dislodged an iron-grill gate inside the court and chanted slogans inside the court premises. Their attempt to storm the CJ block was thwarted as anti-riot police used tear gas and water cannon to force them out of the court premises.

The lawyers then continued their protest at the Mall Road, which was subsequently blocked for traffic.

The lawyers’ clash with law enforcement also disrupted business activities in the area. Nearby shops were closed and the State Bank of Pakistan building was temporarily sealed.

Police stopped using tear gas and water cannon after the lawyers gave the assurance that they would continue their protest peacefully.

According to rescue sources, 10 people including seven lawyers sustained injuries during the clash. They were shifted to Lahore’s Mayo Hospital.

‘Protest to continue until CJ is replaced’

LHCBA President Zulfiqar Chaudhry meanwhile announced that lawyers would observe a strike across Punjab on Tuesday (tomorrow).

He warned that by acting against lawyers, the authorities are taking the situation to a point where “things will no longer be in their control”.

The protesting lawyers told DawnNews that would stage a protest sit-in outside the court overnight and remain there until the LHC chief justice is replaced.

On the other hand, Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmed Khan while talking to DawnNews said provincial authorities “will not let the lawyers hold the judges hostage in any condition”.

He said he had personally requested the LHCBA president to stop using violent means of protest “for some political gains”.

In an incident that took place on July 24 last, lawyers Qureshi and Kazmi along with others had initially misbehaved with Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan and obstructed judicial proceedings of his court in Multan bench and afterwards vandalised and ransacked the court premises and ripped off the name plate of the judge.

Subsequently, the LHC chief justice withdrew judges from the Multan bench in an exercise of his constitutional powers, but made available the principal seat of the LHC, i.e. Lahore, and the Bahawalpur bench for the dispensation of justice.

Though the Multan bench was restored after a few days, lawyers are still on strike.

During one of the hearings this month, a group of lawyers had barged into LHC Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah’s courtroom and created a hostile situation for the bench holding contempt of court proceedings.

While Kazmi had joined the contempt proceedings before the larger bench at initial stage, Qureshi did not comply with the contempt notice.

NBP president appears before NAB team investigating Sharifs’ London flats, Dar’s assets

National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) President Saeed Ahmed appeared before the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) investigation team in Lahore on Monday to record his statement in the ongoing references against Ishaq Dar’s assets and the Sharifs’ Avenfield properties in London, DawnNews reported.

According to bureau sources privy to the matter, a team headed by DG NAB Lahore is carrying out the investigation.

Earlier, Ahmed had informed the Supreme Court-appointed Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that he had no knowledge of any account linked with the alleged money laundering.

Dar had told the JIT that Ahmed was running a nursing home in London before his appointment as deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Ahmed was summoned by the JIT due to his involvement in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, which the JIT was examining as part of its probe into the Sharif family’s murky business dealings abroad.

Ahmed’s name had come into the national limelight when, after the Musharraf coup in 1998, current Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had declared him a “close friend” and claimed that Ahmed’s accounts had been used to ‘handle’ the Sharif family’s finances.

“The previously opened foreign currency accounts of Saeed Ahmed, one of the former directors of FHMC and a close friend of mine, and of Mussa Ghani, the nephew of my wife, were also used to deposit huge foreign currency funds provided by the Sharif family to offer them as collateral to obtain different and indirect credit lines,” Dar had said in his confession in the Hudaibiya case.

However, Dar had later disowned his confessions and said his statement was taken under duress.

‘Nawaz to appoint Shahbaz as PML-N president on Sept 7’

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif will be appointed as the president of the ruling PML-N next month, according to sources close to the party.

A meeting was held between Nawaz Sharif — who was disqualified after the Panamagate verdict last month from continuing as prime minister of Pakistan and consequently, the head of PML-N — and Shahbaz on Monday at the former’s Model Town residence in Lahore.

During the meeting, Nawaz took Shahbaz into confidence regarding his appointment as PML-N president, said party insiders. An announcement to this effect is expected on September 7.

Last week, Senator Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasir was appointed as the party’s interim president following an order from the Election Commission of Pakistan to PML-N to elect a new leader by Aug 25.

The ECP notification had stated that election laws do not allow a person who does not qualify to become a member of the parliament to serve as an office-bearer of a political entity.

Had the party failed to comply with ECP’s order, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the former prime minister’s wife, would not have been able to contest the upcoming NA-120 by polls.

Nasir was appointed to hold the post until the party decided upon a permanent replacement.

PML-N leaders have suggested the appointment of Shahbaz as party leader in recent days.

Shahbaz had previously also been touted as the next prime minister, while incumbent PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was to serve as a stopgap arrangement till the Punjab CM could be elected to the National Assembly. The plan changed, however, after some party leaders opposed the “unnecessary” disturbance in the existing political setting.

During Monday’s meeting, the Sharif brothers also discussed the recently held press conference of former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

In Sunday’s press conference, Nisar admitted to “difference in opinion” with the PML-N leadership and his former cabinet colleagues but — in a show of loyalty to his party — refused to elaborate, saying it would not be appropriate to do so given the crisis facing the party.