Saturday, January 12, 2008

Targeting of lawyers and cover up

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
A bomb exploded in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province, on January 10, killing more than 30 persons and injuring 70, mostly policemen, outside the Lahore High Court building where lawyers had planned a protest rally. On the directives of different Bar Associations lawyers are holding their weekly protests against the sacking of the higher judiciary through the state of emergency across the country every Thursday. Through this Thursday’s rally the lawyers were demonstrating their resolve to fight for the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. While the military regime is trying to create the impression that it has been able to dissolve the lawyer’s movement in fact, the lawyers are calling their bluff. A threatened regime is trying to do its utmost to suppress a popular movement that has risen up against it. In this incident the attack has back fired killing many policemen and exposing the regime. The regime is now trying to create a cover up.

The government was aware of the lawyers’ weekly rally and on this occasion a heavy contingent of police officers, including female officers was deployed with all the necessary riot gear and other equipment necessary to disperse the lawyers rally. Even ambulances and fire engines were deployed in the operation. The government is claiming that it was a suicide bombing. However, the lawyers claim that the bomb was planted earlier with the intention of causing death and injury to the participants of the rally.

When the bomb exploded a rally of lawyers from the District courts was about to reach the Lahore High Court building to join the lawyers from the High Court who were at that time holding their protest meeting inside the court building. The bomb blast occurred just 30 yards away from the main gate where a heavy contingent of police was deployed. The office bearers of the different bar associations said that it was the timing which had saved so many lawyers from death and injury as the participants from the District courts were more than 500 yards from the High Court building. They claim that the bomb was aimed at killing and maiming the lawyers to put a stop to their continuous protests after the sacking of the judges on November 3, through the state of emergency and against the continuous arrests of their leadership and the judges. They also claim that the government is putting the blame on a suicide attack as usual to divert attention from its crimes.

The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns the bomb attack on the Lahore High Court building and sympathises with the grieving families of the police officers who suffered the brunt of the bomb blast. One injured police head constable stated that the bomb was planted inside a white Suzuki car which had been parked near the area where the police were deployed. When they tried to push the car out of the way the bomb exploded causing heavy casualties. However the police higher ranking officers are claiming that the bomb was carried by a suicide bomber who arrived on a motorcycle.

The AHRC supports the struggle of the protesting lawyers for the rule of law, supremacy of the judiciary against the rule of emergency, and against the arbitrary actions of President Musharraf to undermine the constitutional rule. As the government appears seems to be clearly engaged in a cover up, the AHRC calls for a transparent inquiry into this case with the involvement of international experts.

As it is yet another effort by the government to scare the legal fraternity and civil society to make them desist from assembling and conducting protests against the government the international community owes an obligation to support the lawyers vigorously at this time. Lawyers throughout the world should demonstrate their solidarity with the lawyers in Pakistan by strong actions in their own countries and by communicating their anger to the Pakistan government through the local embassies and consulates of the country.

This is an incident in which many lawyers could have died. Already there are lawyers who have been seriously tortured and held under house arrest and thousands were also detained. The global legal community owes an obligation to the lawyers of Pakistan to institute an inquiry of their own into this matter. The global lawyer’s organisations and national organisations should come forward to offer protection for the lawyers of Pakistan now. We particularly call upon the International Bar Association and Law Asia to act in a demonstrative manner, letting the world know how they will fight to protect their colleagues in Pakistan. We also call upon the UN Rapporteur for the independence of judge and lawyers to exercise his mandate and to do his utmost to investigate this matter and prevent any further recurrence. It should be remembered that those who made this failed attempt are very likely to try again and next time they will also try to make sure that they will carry out their evil task more efficiently this is one of those times when the international solidarity within the legal fraternity and the human rights community will be tested.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Lawyers condemn blast, term it state conspiracy

By Inam Ullah
LAHORE, Pakistan, 10 January 2008 (The Post) - The legal fraternity termed the [bomb] attack here on Thursday a conspiracy against the lawyers' movement and a complete failure of the [Musharraf] government in controlling the law and order situation in the provincial metropolis [Lahore].
Member, Punjab Bar Council (PBC), Advocate Navid Anayat Malik alleged that the [Musharraf] government "wants to scare lawyers through such coercive tactics to cut short our anti-government movement, started for the restoration of all deposed judges and the Constitution."
"After repeated failure of the [Musharraf] government to stop lawyers from their movement through brutal torture and illegal detention, the government has now designed a 'suicide' attack on us, as used before to remove PPP ex-Chairperson Benazir Bhutto," he added.
"We now want to tell the [Musharraf] government we are not afraid," he said and vowed to continue "our struggle for rights." He urged the lawyers to intensify their campaigns for early success of "our"movement.
Later, he condoled the death of cops who lost their lives in the [bomb] attack and condemned the attack in question.
Another member of PBC, Manzoor Qadir, also a candidate for the LahoreBar Association [LBA] President Office, said the [Musharraf] government has tried its best to suppress the lawyers, "but come what may, we are not afraid. Our movement will only stop after we achieve our agenda," he added.
Former President LBA and member PBC, Advocate Chaudhry Imran Masood, termed the blast in the provincial metropolis a complete failure ofthe [Musharraf] government to tackle lawlessness. "The [ruling tyrant Pervez Musharraf] is playing with the solidarity of our country for his own sake," he said, adding that the only solution to the current crisis would be free and transparent general elections under the supervision of a neutral caretaker government.
Advocate Shahid Bilal Hassan, member PBC, condemning the [bomb] attack on police accused [Dictator] Musharraf of putting the whole nation at stake. "Nobody is safe in this country from terrorism," he added.
Former President, Lahore Tax Bar [LTB], Shafqat Chohan said the masses at large had pinned their hopes on "us" [the Pakistani lawyers]. "We became their voice," he said, adding that the [Musharraf] government"fears the lawyers' movement, hence the blast."
Former Secretary LHCBA, Mian Irfan Akram, expressing his grief over the number of casualties, said the legal fraternity has understood the"hidden message" of the [Musharrraf] government, but "will not retreat a single step. The government must accept defeat," he added.
Former Secretary, LBA, G.A. Khan, and Sajid Bashir said the movement would continue at any cost.

"Lawyers Rally was Real Target"

By Jamaluddin Jamali

LAHORE, Pakistan, 10 January 2008 (The Post) - The legal fraternity on Thursday blamed government agencies [Pakistan Army's Special ServiceGroup (SSG) Commandos, MI, ISI, IB, FIA, Rangers, or InteriorMinistry, etc.] for the deadly [bomb] blast outside the Lahore High Court and said that the real target of the bomber was the lawyers rally.
Hundreds of lawyers were inside the High Court at the time of the blast while others led by the Lahore Bar Association [LBA] were marching towards The Mall.
Lawyers claimed that real target of the blast was their rally, which was heading towards the GPO Chowk, but later the plan was changed and the police contingent was attacked.
The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) condemned the [bomb] attack which killed almost 26 people, most of them policemen [and injured over 80 Pakistanis].
SCBA Vice President Ghulam Nabi Bhatti told The Post that the blast was the handiwork of [Pervez Musharraf's] government agencies which wanted to browbeat the protesting lawyers.
He alleged that [the Musharraf] government agencies conducted the blast to weaken the lawyers' protest movement. It was a "divine delay"in the protest march that saved the lives of hundreds of lawyers and members of civil society groups," Ghulam Nabi said.
Former LHCBA President Ahmed Javaid Jilani told The Post that the [Musharraf] government wanted to defer the general elections by creating a law and order situation in Lahore which was relatively safer than rest of the country.

Visiting victims of the blast..

Xani Amin

We visited the Mayo Hospital today evening to ask after the blast victims. All along the way, I was thinking what to expect and how to express my feelings; condemnation for the blast and empathy for the victims. My thoughts dispersed and the words failed me when I met the victims and their families. Stricken by poverty and pain, they sat by the bed sides of their near and dear ones whose limbs were broken and bodies burnt. We sat with them, held hands and comforted them. They thanked us for being there to share their grief. It was a humbling experience and the one I will remember for a long time.We stayed for one hour, met about 26 victims and their families, passed on small gifts to them and left the hospital with eyes gleaming with tears but a heart full of promise to visit again. I would request all of you to go and see the victims. In these testing times they need all the support and comfort that your visit can give them.