Pakistani police on Monday baton-charged and arrested more than 100 lawyers at protests in at least two cities against a state of emergency imposed by President Pervez Musharraf, witnesses said.
The incidents in the southern port city of Karachi and in Rawalpindi, a northern garrison town, came a day after security forces rounded up 500 opposition activists and attorneys.
Police and paramilitary soldiers sealed off the high court in Karachi and barred journalists and lawyers from entering, before charging at lawyers who were outside the building, lawyers and witnesses said.
"It has never happened in the history of Pakistan when such a huge number of lawyers have been arrested," a former provincial High Court judge, Rashid Razvi, told reporters.
"According to my information more than 100 lawyers have been arrested in Karachi after police foiled their attempt to hold a bar association meeting in the court," he said.
Senior lawyer Akhtar Hussain told AFP earlier that police arrested at least 50 lawyers and then "whisked them away in waiting vans," he said.
Karachi police also cordoned off the house of the Sindh high court's former chief justice Sabihuddin Ahmed, who had been removed under the emergency rule, and arrested his son during the protests, witnesses said.
Two other judges who refused to take an oath under Musharraf's order for emergency rule and the suspension of the constitution were turned back when they reached the high court.
"We have been ordered to remain on duty here, we cannot comment on arrests," a police offficer said, requesting not to be identified by name.
"It is the worst case in the judicial history of Pakistan. The situtaion clearly proves that no uniform ruler can give democracy," Razvi said.
Another half a dozen lawyers were "mercilessly beaten" when they chanted anti-government slogans at a court in Rawalpindi, lawyer Mudassir Saeed said.
Police ordered journalists at the scene not to take pictures.
At least 10 lawyers were arrested in raids conducted in the northwestern city of Peshawar overnight, police said. One was a lawyer who had sprayed a black substance in the face of a state attorney who was defending the legality of Musharraf's October 6 election victory in the supreme court last month.
Roads in the capital Islamabad were blocked to prevent lawyers getting to the Supreme Court, where the legal community also planned rallies against the state of emergency announced by Musharraf on Saturday.
Lawyers were gathering in the second largest city of Lahore ahead of a planned protest rally and also in northwestern Peshawar.