| Lawyers at a protest rally in Karachi. (Reuters)
Islamabad, March 10: Lawyers halted proceedings at local courts across Pakistan today as former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was reportedly placed under house arrest.
According to the private Geo TV channel, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Munir A. Malik, said that nobody is being allowed to meet Chaudhry.
“A SCBA delegation and the Pakistan Bar Council was not allowed to see Justice Chaudhry, which shows that he is under detention,” Malik said. The SCBA president also announced a countrywide protest campaign on Monday and Tuesday at a press conference in Islamabad.
Malik said the suspended judge had vowed to defend himself. “I spoke with the chief justice by phone, and he told me that he would not step down,” Malik said.
According to the BBC’s Urdu service, Chaudhry told his nephew Amir Rana that he is under tight police security and nobody is being allowed to meet or contact him.
Rana told the BBC that telephone lines to Choudhry’s residence have been cut off and mobile phones of his family members confiscated. Only his daughter’s cellphone remained operational through which Choudhry managed to contact the rest of his family.
Choudhry was yesterday sacked by President Pervez Musharraf on charges of “misconduct and misuse” of authority.
Chaudhry reportedly told Rana that he was summoned to the Army House in Rawalpindi where Musharraf asked him to reach a “compromise” on the cases relating to persons who have gone missing in Pakistan after being picked up by security forces and intelligence agencies.
He said Musharraf asked him not to make any anti- government remarks during the case and that the President be allowed to run the affairs of the government smoothly.
The BBC quoted Rana as saying that Chaudhry refused to “compromise” which led to his suspension.
Also today, the Supreme Judicial Council summoned Chandhry to appear before it on Tuesday. “After examining the reference received by the Supreme Judicial Council and having gone through the record, the council has taken cognizance of the reference and decided to invite the respondent on March 13,” the council said.
Lawyers boycotted courts and rallied in Islamabad, Karachi and Quetta today, chanting slogans against Musharraf.
Attorney Sakhi Sultan told a Quetta rally that Chaudhry had been wrongly punished, saying: “How can the President remove the chief justice like this'”