–Enraged lawyers scuffle with police, smash windows and break furniture inside courtrooms
–Punjab law minister says lawyers’ demands are justified, govt will try to resolve issue through negotiations
MULTAN: Enraged lawyers in Multan stormed the new judicial complex here on Wednesday, smashing windows and doors and mirrors with sticks, in protest over the shifting of the courts for a second consecutive day.
The lawyers say that the new judicial complex, which began functioning on Nov 14, does not house their chambers.
The protests, which began on Tuesday, continued on Wednesday as lawyers entered the sessions court after a scuffle with the police. A large number of female lawyers also participated in the demonstrations.
Television footage showed police trying to contain the protesting lawyers in front of the complex. At one point, however, the lawyers managed to break past the police and surround them and were seen aggressively clapping their hands above their heads. The lawyers then broke into the complex building and began smashing windows and doors inside a sessions court with sticks.
The lawyers maintain that although four or five months had lapsed, their demands had not been fulfilled and the new judicial complex does not house their chambers. They said that due to rain and cold weather in the city, they faced difficulties as they have had to operate in the grounds outside the buildings.
Former president Supreme Court Bar Association Barrister Ali Zafar stated that he does not support violent protest for the acceptance of demands by any community including lawyers and said issues must be resolved through negotiations.
Condemning the incident, Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) Secretary General Amir Saeed said lawyers and litigants faced immense hardships owing to the dearth of basic facilities in courts but that did not call for such a display of violence.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the lawyers’ demands are justified and negotiations will be held with them in order to reach an agreement to end the protests.
Speaking about the role of the police, Sanaullah said that the officers have been “directed to engage them [the protesters] and stop them from damaging property. However, they have been directed to not harm any lawyer.”
He said that the incident hadn’t come to his notice earlier as the lawyers had presented their demands to the judiciary. “We have just taken a notice of this. We will engage the lawyers and try to reach a compromise. If we are not able to do this, then we will approach an arbitrator to resolve the issue.”
In November, as the sessions and civil courts started functioning in the new judicial complex, lawyers had gathered outside the Lahore High Court Multan Bench building and held protests. Rallies were taken out, slogans against the move were chanted, and court proceedings were boycotted.
The construction of the judicial complex began in 2005 on 1,000 acres of land after the Asian Development Bank granted a loan under the Access to Justice Programme.