Upset by government inaction, Pakistan's Bar Council announced on Saturday that it would begin a "long march" to Islamabad on June 10 if all the judges dismissed by President Pervez Musharaf were not restored to the bench.
Speaking after a daylong convention at the Lahore High Court bar association premises, senior lawyer Aitazaz Ahsan announced that the "long march" would converge on Islamabad from different directions.
Long marches in Pakistan have come to mean an extreme form of mobilisation to compel the government to do this or that. Usually, this tactic has been used by political parties, but it's now being used by the laywers' movement.
Ahsan, who is a leading light of the Pakistan Peoples Party, but differs with the PPP on the judges' issue, said the lawyers, who have spearheaded a civil society movement since March 2007 against Musharraf, would also stage a dharna in Islamabad.
"We will seek the support of other sections of Pakistani civil society, including political parties," Ahsan announced in the presence of other office-bearers of bar associations from across the country.
The Gilani government, which took power as a coalition arrangement with the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), had promised to restore the judges, but this promise is still to see the light of day. Already, the PML (N) has pulled out its ministers from the Gilani government even though its members continue to sit on the treasury benches.
Talking to the Hindustan Times, Ahsan said, "I am confident that the judges will be restored. As far as we are concerned,
all of them continue to be judges since they were not removed by a constitutional process."
"Actually, it's simply a case of the judges resuming their duties," he stressed. "There's a simple way to do that: by an executive order."
"I differ with my party (PPP) on this issue," Ahsan, who has filed nomination papers to contest a June-end by-election from Rawalpindi, added.