MUZAFFARGARH/SIALKOT/GUJRANWALA/Sargodha/HAFIZABAD-The local lawyers on Tuesday took to the streets against the non-bailable arrest warrants issued by the Lahore High Court chief justice against a Multan-based lawyers’ leader in a contempt of court case.

Likewise, more than 250 lawyers of tehsils Jatoi, Alipur, Muzaffargarh and Kot Addu bars associations continued their protest and did not appear before the courts.

They also staged a demonstration to press the judiciary to withdraw the arrest warrants. President of High Court Bar Association Multan bench President Sher Zaman Qureshi succeeded in thwarting the half-hearted attempt of the Multan police to arrest him. However, the police took his four close relatives including two nephews. The enraged black coats took to the streets and staged an hours-long sit-in against his arrest warrants at Chowk Kutchehry.

The protesting lawyers carried out non-stop sloganeering against judiciary and police. They threatened that the bar membership of all the lawyers who are appearing before the courts will be cancelled. The lawyers announced to hold a joint meeting of district and four tehsils bars to chalk out new line of action.

The police conducted a number of raids to arrest the High Court Bar president. Meanwhile, a large number of lawyers gathered at Kutchehry under the leadership of executive member Chaudhry Mujtaba Sher Khan and asked the lawyers not to appear before the courts. The lawyers shouted slogans against the judiciary and offered mock funeral prayer of a high judicial personality. The protesting lawyers asked the DPO to refrain from arresting the lawyers as they do not want to have a clash with police. They warned that an unhappy incident could take place if police tried to arrest Sher Zaman from the bar building.

A severe traffic blockade took place due to the sit-in of the lawyers at Chowk Kutchehry. Hundreds of vehicles got stuck in traffic jam. Police diverted traffic to other routes from Chowk Kutchehry. Addressing the protesters, president of District Bar Muzaffargarh Syed Tasadaq Hussain Bukhari, member of Punjab Bar Council Jam Younis, Waseem Magsi, Zaffar Iqbal Ansari and others said that thousands of lawyers would offer their arrest before Sher Zaman.

They warned that the black coats would not accept arrest of their president and the city would witness streams of blood. “It’s not the issue of any individual, rather it’s the issue of sanctity of black coats,” they added.

The standoff between the bar and the bench begun following an incident on July 24, 2017 when a senior judge Muhammad Qasim Khan at LHC Multan Bench ordered irrelevant persons to go out of the courtroom. Mr Qureshi was amongst the persons asked to leave the courtroom. Having felt insulted, he gathered other members of the bar and exchanged harsh words with the judge, uprooted the nameplate of the judge from outside the courtroom and carried out sloganeering against him.

The LHC chief justice took serious note of the incident and initially withdrew judges from Multan bench and then a full court issued order for cancellation of Mr Qureshi’s licence besides his arrest.

Likewise, Sialkot-based lawyers also expressed solidarity with their Lahore-based community as they observed complete strike and boycotted the courts in Sialkot.

The lawyers marched on the main inter-city roads. Sialkot District Bar Association (DBA) President Shaukat Ali led the rally. The protesting lawyers were carrying banners and placards.

They also staged a sit-in in front of the offices of Deputy Commissioner (DC) and District Police Officer (DPO) in District Kutchery. They were chanting slogans in favour of the lawyers of Lahore and Multan.

Earlier, the Sialkot DBA in a meeting strong condemned the issuance of the arrest warrants for Multan Bar Association President by the Lahore High Court CJ. The DBA also passed condemnation a resolution in this regard.

Also Gujranwala District Bar Association observed strike and held a rally against the Lahore High Court chief justice. Hundreds of lawyers under the leadership of president district bar marched Sialkot road and chanted slogans against chief justice. The protesters also burnt the chief justice’s effigy. The protesters demanded arrest warrant of Multan bar president be withdrawn otherwise their strike will continue till the fulfilment of their demands.

The Sargodha DBA also condemned the police brutal torture shelling of tear gas and use of water cannon against lawyers and demanded stern legal action against them. Litigants from far flung areas of district as well as coming from other cities suffered many problems due to lawyers strike while judiciary staff fixed next dates for their cases. District court premises was presenting a deserted look because of the lawyers protest.

The Lawyers of Hafizabad and Pindi Bhattian observed complete strike to express solidarity with the Multan Bar president. They demanded withdrawal of the arrest warrant for the LHCBA Multan president and declared that they would boycott the courts till the withdrawal of arrest warrant.

However, hundreds of litigants who visited the courts in connection with their cases in Hafizabad and Pindi Bhattian returned disappointed and called upon the concerned authorities to put an end to day-to-day boycott of the courts by the lawyers to ensure speedy adjudication of pending cases.