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Police clash with lawyers, activists in Islamabad

Lawyers are protesting the SC decision allowing Musharraf to contest for presidency while heading the army.

world Updated: Sep 29, 2007 12:38 IST

Police used tear gas and chased with sticks hundreds of lawyers and political activists who gathered near the Election Commission (EC) in Islamabad on Saturday to protest the Supreme Court's decision allowing Pervez Musharraf to contest for presidency while heading the army. The EC was then scrutinising nomination papers of presidential candidates.

Leading lawyer Ali Ahmed Kurd was beaten up and arrested while over 100 political workers were taken into custody from Constitution Avenue, where important buildings including the parliament, Supreme Court, prime minister's secretariat and EC are located.

"The administration has turned Constitution Avenue into a battleground...Kurd has been badly beaten, he is injured and has been taken to an unknown place," Munir A Malik, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, told reporters.

The lawyers' collective had urged its members across the country to reach Islamabad on Saturday to protest the scrutiny of nomination papers. The presidential elections are scheduled on Oct 6. Musharraf and 42 other candidates, including a lawyers' nominee, have filed nomination papers.

The agitating lawyers threw stones and glass bottles at the police, who retaliated by firing teargas shells. After attacking policemen, lawyers took refuge in the nearby Supreme Court building.

Some of the injured lawyers were admitted to hospitals and a few journalists also came under attack.

Malik said that hundreds of lawyers have been arrested but "this will only strengthen our resolve against the military dictator...we are not going to stop".

He said: "all ministers and members of the ruling party are being allowed into the EC building whereas we have been stopped. This is the 'independent' Election Commission."

A nine-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Rana Bhagwandas, dismissed all petitions filed against Musharraf's candidature and his simultaneously holding two offices of the president and the army chief by a 6-3 majority decision on Friday.

Malik, who spearheads the anti-Musharraf campaign, said that lawyers have filed objections to Musharraf's candidature for the presidential poll.

He pointed out that Musharraf had not submitted his Bachelor's degree with the nomination papers. According to the 2002 presidential order only graduates can contest for parliament.

"The same conditions apply for the presidential candidates," Malik said.

The lawyers have also alleged that Musharraf was a "liar" and hence stood disqualified for the president's office. Malik said that Musharraf in a televised addressed had committed that he would doff the army uniform in December 2004 but he later refused and continued to hold two offices.