LAHORE  -   The lawyers’ movement for the establishment of a Lahore High Court Bench in Faisalabad, Gujranwala and other divisions is gaining momentum as the Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) pledged its full support to the protesting lawyers and announced strike across Punjab provinces to express solidarity with them.

PbBC Executive Committee Chairperson Bushra Qamar 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. She said, “Since we express solidarity with the lawyers, the situation across Punjab province has to some extent normalised.”

To a question she said that where some violent incidents have taken place, the PbBC was ready to take action against the responsible persons if a reference is submitted to the council from the aggrieved parties.

She said that the council’s step should not be taken negatively as it aimed at normalising the situation.

She said that the lawyers’ demand was legal so the government establish LHC benches as per commitments made by different government representatives in the past.

She justified her support 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.

The Faisalabad-based lawyers have been on strike against the non-establishment of a Lahore High Court Bench in Faisalabad for the last nine days. As a result of their strike, the litigants are suffering a lot as all roads leading to district courts remain blocked by the local police.

In addition, also 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 of Faisalabad division will observe strike for indefinite period, will stage demonstrations on the city roads and even shut down the Motorway and other main roads leading to Faisalabad.

Earlier, the lawyers boycotted the courts and reached the District Bar Association protest camp on District Courts Road where they staged a sit-in. The lawyers participating in the rally were informed by their leaders that the District Bar Association would continue its strike till November 24.

Likewise, the strike of lawyers for establishment of a Lahore High Court (LHC) Bench in Gujranwala entered the ninth day. They locked entrance of session courts and announced locking the tehsil office. Addressing the protesting lawyers, District Bar Association president Noor Muhammad Mirza said that their strike would be continued till the fulfillment of their demand.

Holding placards and banners, the lawyers held protests and did not appear in courts creating problems for the petitioners and delaying the court’s proceedings. Earlier, the agitated lawyers stormed the court premises and vandalised property including the district officer’s room. They damaged chairs and a police mobile in the court premises, claiming that formation of benches was their basic right.

Boycotting the day’s proceedings, they had closed the gates of the court and stopped petitioners from entering the court’s premises. The lawyers also stormed into the office of Deputy Commissioner Sardar Saifullah Dogar and when they found out that he was not present, trouped to the committee room where Dogar was chairing a session. They created disturbances and disrupting the proceedings. As a result, the session had to be concluded forcibly.

Besides, Faisalabad and Gujranwala, similar protest is also being carried out in Sargodha and Toba Tek Singh as they have been demanding for the establishment of an LHC bench in Faisalabad and Gujranwala to ensure speedy and cheaper justice to the residents of the cities.

The lawyers’ presence in the protest rallies and their participation in the protest camp set up in front of the district courts is increasing with the passage of time.

SHAHZAD AHMAD