LAHORE   -  The Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) announced to go on a week-long strike from tomorrow and boycott court proceedings across Punjab province on the “refusal” of provincial law ministry to hold “previously scheduled” talks with the lawyers on the formation of division benches.

The lawyers held a protest rally from the PbBC building to the Lahore High Court and also staged a sit-in so as to express solidarity with the lawyers demanding establishment of LHC benches in Gujranwala, Sargodha and other regions of the province.

Talking to this scribe, Bushra Qamar, the chairperson of PbBC Executive Committee. said that the provincial ministry officials had scheduled to hold a meeting with the lawyers’ leaders on the issue. However, she added, the Law Ministry had refused to hold the meeting when she contacted with the secretary of Law Minister Raja Basharat a day earlier.

She said that the lawyers would go all out to get the demanded accepted.

When asked that the litigants would suffer not the government due to the week-long strike, she said, “LHC Chief Justice Anwaarul Haq had stopped the institution of new cases at regional level which was against the interest of the litigants. And that very step was not taken by the lawyers but the chief justice, she said.

She said that a general house meeting of the PbBC had been conducted in which the members had decided to go on strike for the acceptance of their demand.

On November 23, PbBC office-bearers had pledged their full support to the protesting lawyers and announced strike across Punjab provinces to express solidarity with them.

The PbBC office-bearers said that the council fully supports the lawyers’ rights but not their illegal activities and vandalism being carrying out for acceptance of their demand for establishment of LHC benches in Faisalabad, Gujranwala and other divisions.

They said that the lawyers’ demand was legal so the government should establish LHC benches as per commitments made by different government representatives in the past. They justified their support to the protesters while saying that if Mengora and Swat benches of Peshawar High Court could be set in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa why LHC benches could not be set up in Punjab.

In Faisalabad, the lawyers’ strike from the establishment of a Lahore High Court Bench entered the 18th day. The District Bar Association (DBA) members boycotted the courts and gathered at the protest camp set up against the government for not yielding to their demand.

DBA president Amjad Hussain Malik said that the Faisalabad lawyers would continue their strike and protest till acceptance of their demand. They said that the former government had announced to establish the LHC benches at five divisional headquarters of Punjab, including Faisalabad but nothing had been materialised yet.

They said that Faisalabad was the third biggest commercial and industrial hub of Pakistan and its population has exceeded 15 million. The government was fetching sizeable revenue from Faisalabad but was continuously isolating the city due to some elements having vested interests.

Likewise, the black coats continued their strike in Gujranwala. The entry point of the session courts remained locked by the protesters. A lawyers delegation under the leadership of bar president had met with the Punjab government authorities but the meeting could not be got fruitful.

Meanwhile, commuters face hardship due to blockage of traffic. Litigants, who came from far-off areas of the district, were seen sitting in miserable condition on footpaths and waiting for an end to the lawyers’ strike.

The protesting lawyers warn that in case their demand was not fulfilled, the lawyers would observe strike for indefinite period, stage demonstrations on the city roads and even shut down the Motorway and other main roads leading to Faisalabad.