LAHORE - PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif stole the show as he led the long march on Sunday and headed for the Constitution Avenue in Islamabad, joined by tens of thousands of party workers and members of civil society for the final showdown with the government amid pitched battles between the police and stone-throwing marchers at GPO Chowk. Defying all hurdles and government detention order to lead long march, a huge caravan that included over 500 cars and jeeps, and thousands of PML-N workers, leaders, general public, including elderly, women and children joining him started on one of the most important journeys of his life that will also determine his political future. It was perhaps the biggest show that the PML-N has staged in recent times which was probably unexpected for most observers. Though there were reports that Nawaz will be detained at Model Town and will not be allowed to lead the march, surprisingly police turned out to be a silent spectator as the caravan of Nawaz Sharif started its march toward GPO Chowk. Instead of stopping Nawaz, the police was seen rolling back all the security measures. He was given a free hand by nervous policemen till he left the city. Some participants suspected the police's lukewarm response as a part of underhand deal between police high-ups and the PML-N. The rally was also conspicuous by the presence of a large number of people from the civil society, participating in the march on the call of Nawaz Sharif. PML-N caravan for long march was scheduled to set out from Model Town at the residence of PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif at 10:00 am in the morning. However, marchers led by Nawaz Sharif could not start the journey as heavy contingents of police were deployed with barricades, barbed wires and police vehicles to stop the PML-N Quaid from leaving his residence. Situation got out of control when Nawaz Sharif ordered protestors present inside and outside the residence to proceed toward GPO Chowk. He even refused to receive his detention orders. Police personnel locked all doors of his house as a last resort to check Nawaz from coming out. It was at this point a clash took place between protestors and police, setting the tone of the rally afterwards. A few PML-N workers started removing the barbed wires raising full-throat slogans against President Asif Ali Zardari and PPP-led government. On this, police baton-charged the workers and fired teargas shells to disperse the emotionally charged workers in an attempt to disperse them. However, PML-N workers led by party leaders broke the locks and took on the police force. Within seconds, the vehicles flashed out of the house and dragged the pickets away. Nawaz Sharif came out of his residence sitting in a car that was being driven by Hamza Shahbaz, son of PML-N President and former Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif. In the beginning, the vehicle of Nawaz Sharif was surrounded by his own personal security men but later his vehicle was provided official security The size of caravan started expanding at different chowks. After reaching Kalma Chowk, a number of PML-N groups led by PML-N MPAs and MNAs joined the caravan and shaped formed a visibly bigger procession. Lahore-based MNAs and MPAs, sitting on the roof of the vehicles, continued converging into the mass procession. Party office-bearers were also leading numerous groups. Several PML-N wings including labour wing, cultural wing, kissan wing, professional wing, women wing and other general public also joined the breathtaking show at different spots. As the caravan proceeds towards its destination slowly, more and more people from the civil society joined Nawaz Sharif, developing into a huge rally never seen in recent vintage. Some eyewitnesses described the show as good as the one staged when Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry visited the City after he was sacked. Either side of the road, people were standing eager to see one glimpse of their leader Nawaz Sharif. Those who were on the rooftop of their houses were showering rose petals on the car of Nawaz Sharif. The entire caravan was festooned with PML-N flags, banners placards and posters of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif. The most popular slogan was "Dekho Dekho Koon Aaya Sher Aaya Sher Aaya." The groups of motorcycles and protestors equipped with clubs and sticks also joined the main caravan that travelled from Kalma Chowk, Muslim Town Moor, Ichrah, Mazang, Temple road, Jain Mandar, Moj Darya road. PML-N workers also boarded on police vehicles that were going with the caravan. Police did not mind the action showing the gesture they were in mood to facilitate them. Near Jain Mandar, a Police vehicle brutally ran over a person. On this, protestors went on the rampage and they set the vehicle on fire. Though, there was a plan that caravan of Nawaz Sharif would reach GPO chowk where Nawaz Sharif would address the marchers. However, plan was changed at the eleventh hour. After reaching the Mall, the caravan moved toward Kachehri Chowk, Data Darbar, Azadi Chowk and finally crossed Ravi Bridge. Addressing the crowd before leaving his Model Town residence, Nawaz said "We don't accept the decision of house arrest. The detention is illegal and immoral. All these decisions are unconstitutional. Come and join me. I am leaving the house. The time has come to march hand in hand." A defiant Nawaz exhorted all Pakistanis to come out onto the streets and make the long march of politicians and lawyers a grand success. A very vocal and at times hoarse Nawaz appealed to all right-thinking Pakistanis to shed their inhibitions and fears in their quest to deliver a message of change in the leadership of the country. He emphatically said that the present regime had done its time, and proved beyond a shadow of doubt that it was incapable of administering the affairs of the country and its people in a judicious and acceptable manner. He said that it was the constitutional right of all Pakistanis to demand change when it was merited, and warned the government of President Zardari not to take steps to quash the hopes of a fledgling democracy, else it would face a telling reply, the likes of which had not been seen in the 60 or more years of Pakistan's existence as an independent nation. Nawaz alleged that the government had turned the country into police state. "Curfew-like situation is prevailing in the country and all the roads and passages had been blocked," he said. He said: "We are being prevented from supporting good cause." Country would be taken forward to its real destination, he maintained. He urged the youth to come out of their homes to extricate the country from crisis. Defining movement has come, he roared. The whole nation stands with Nawaz Sharif for changing the destiny of Pakistan, he maintained. Pakistan has again called countrymen after 1947 that they should come out of their homes and support him for the cause of independence of judiciary, he appealed. "I was put under house arrest illegally and unethically and this has sparked demonstrations in the country. We have delivered our promise. I have come out to take part in long march. Let us change the destiny of Pakistan," he announced. Nawaz demanded removal of restrictions on way to the long march, otherwise, he warned, workers would remove them. Meanwhile, despite over four-hour severe tear-gas shelling and stone-pelting, thousands of lawyers and political workers on Sunday set off for Islamabad for the final round of long march amid surrender from the police and civil administration in the face of mammoth public showing. The GPO Chowk once again turned into a battlefield as police resorted to baton-charge and tear-gas to disperse the lawyers and political activists gathered around GPO to proceed for federal capital. The charged marchers removed all the hurdles put on their way to foil their move to proceed to Islamabad. The Mall from GPO Chowk to old Anarkali was littered with empty teargas shells and stones while the air was heavy polluted with poisonous gas. The law enforcement agencies made desperate efforts to foil marchers plan to leave for Islamabad as unprecedented security measures adopted by the city police but could not prevent the lawyers, political and civil society activists from assembling at GPO Chowk. The police barricaded and blocked the entire city while the entire LHC building was cordoned off by heavy police contingent. The main exit point [Ravi Toll Plaza] was blocked by trolleys full of sand to stop the marchers from leaving the city for federal capital. Heavy contingents of the police wearing anti-riot uniform had cordoned off the Lahore High Court building since morning besides blocking all roads and intersections leading to the Mall. The police erected barricades at all main intersections leading to the LHC, creating problems for commuters and motorists. Even pedestrians were not allowed to cross the Mall. The battle started at around 12:30pm when the lawyers started emerging at GPO Chowk to receive the political activists and civil society. The charged lawyers and political activists of Jamat-e-Islami, PML N, Tehreek-e- Insaaf, Khaksaar Tehreek and civil society chanted full-throat anti-government slogans continued marching towards the GPO Chowk while pushing back the police personnel both in uniform and plain cloths. First clash between police and workers took place when the police stopped a group of PML-N workers at LHC judges' gate and resorted to baton charge however the innocent activists bravely fought them and succeed in reaching LHC. Few minutes later a large number of PML-N women workers along with representatives of civil society managed to reach McLeod Road outside PTCL building where the police had blocked the road by standing sand loaded trolleys. The women staged a sit-in there and chanted slogans "Go Zardari go", "Dharna hoga Dharna hoga". Interestingly there were no lady police available. Finally the police allowed them to go when lawyers reached there. The crowd slowly but gradually snowballed shouting thunderous slogans against the government and in favour of the deposed judges. Resultantly police started to baton-charge on lawyers. The lawyers responded the police baton-charge with massive stone-pelting. Some policemen were seen collecting stones and supplying them to their colleagues who were hurling stones at the crowd. Police fired teargas shells to disperse the marchers who were peaceful and kept on doing so for four long hours. The black coats and workers pelted stones on the riot police that were deployed outside the LHC. The police tactic to use massive teargas shelling did not pay dividend rather they paid the price for it. On realizing the situation getting out of control the police started indiscriminate tear-gas shelling which compelled the lawyers to go back to the bar room of High Court. Thousands of political activists, lawyers and residents living in adjacent areas were also affected by the shelling. Police baton charge wounded several protestors. Whenever political activists attempted to assemble the police resorted to indiscriminate teargas shelling, as a result of which many people fainted. Young activists of JI led by their leader Liaquat Baloch took lead in fighting with the police force and compelled it to retreat. The young protestors combating the police bravely threw the tear-gas shells back on police besides pelting stones. They also burned tyres on roads to fizzle out the effect of tear gas. Smoke emitting from teargas shells made it hard to breathe even in open air. Many people went unconscious due to indiscriminate tear gas shelling. Some JI activists changed their strategy as they went to the rooftop of GPO building and hoisted JI flag. The protestors were dispersed after the shelling but started re-gathering at the end of shelling and start their protest again. The infuriated activists also manhandled many policemen who were firing tear gas and hurling stones at them. Lawyers pelted stones from inside the Lahore High Court premises, which was cordoned off by police for almost an hour. Many lawyers were injured when police retaliated against the stone- pelting. Among others many journalists covering the event were also received injuries due to tear gas shelling and stone pelting by police. Some of the injured people were rushed to LHCBA's dispensary by their companions and others were taken to nearby hospitals by Rescue 1122. They were discharged after minor dressing. As the police continued to tear-gas and pelting stones at the protesting lawyers gathered inside the premises of Lahore High Court, many people played a crucial role of providing their protesting brothers and sisters with assistance in the shape of water bottles and salt to wither away the effect of heavy teargas shelling. Several lawyers received critical injuries during the encounter with the police force, however, some police officers and officials also sustained injuries during skirmishes with the lawyers. President LHCBA Justice (r) M A Shahid Siddiq also received injuries after a tear gas shell hit him at GPO Chowk. Lawyers took him to the bar's dispensary where he was provided first aid. At one stage policemen wearing anti-riot uniform failed to resist the crowd's retaliation and fled away from GPO Chowk. DIG Operations Javed Saleemi had to run away as well from the GPO Chowk when demonstrators clashed with the riot police and moved towards them. When the police high-ups observed that they had completely failed to contain the protest, they removed the police from GPO Chowk. Later the police removed the barracks installed at The Mall and allowed to the commuters to proceed towards their destinations who were caught up by traffic-jam for about four hours. However, the small skirmishes and hide and seek between police force and protestors continued the whole day at the Mall. During the whole day battle PML-N leaders Rana Mashood, Mian Marghoob, Ayaz Sadiq, Kanwal Nasim, Saba Sadiq remained present at the spot and led their workers. Bushra Aitzaz and Faryal Gohar were leading the activists of civil society while elected representatives of bar associations including former president SCBA Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood were leading the lawyers. However, the main leader of lawyer's movement Aitzaz Ahsan could not reach high court in time as he was arrested by police from Dubai Chowk of Allama Iqbal Town and later detained at his house. On getting information of Aitzaz's detention, a group of lawyers rushed to his residence in Zaman Park and bring him to high court at 5pm after having a little clash with police. Later around the caravan of lawyers led by Aitzaz Ahsan started its journey to Islamabad with the motorcade of Mian Nawaz Sharif encircled by private and official security guards passed. Meanwhile, Chairman National Coordination Council Ch Aitzaz Ahsan has said that the government writ has abolished as flood of masses have trampled down all restrictions under their feet. He expressed these views while talking to the media persons after reaching LHC from detention. He said the lawyers would reach Islamabad at any cost and stage an indefinite sit-in to press for their demand for the restoration of deposed chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Responding to a question, he said neither he would join PML-N nor would leave PPP because the party does not belong to one person rather it is a party of millions of people. He said other party leaders also resigned over his suspension. Monitoring Desk adds: Nawaz said that the long march would be taken to its logical conclusion. Talking to a private TV channel on Sunday, Nawaz said the country needed a system purely based on justice. The PML-N Quaid said Pakistan was passing through a golden moment of its history, which was prelude to a great revolution. Nawaz said no one had the authority to defy the Constitution and snub the Parliament. He asked the PCO judges to step down or the nation would throw them out. Nawaz said the government should take wise decisions and honour mass aspirations. He said the long march was aimed at restoring deposed judges and ensuring justice in the country. Till filing of this report, the long march led by Nawaz Sharif was passing through Shahdara. Monitoring Desk adds: Nawaz Sharif has announced to call off the long march following Prime Minister's announcement to restore all deposed judges, reported a private TV channel. He made the announcement in Gujranwala.