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Police vent ire on Pak lawyers

Lahore, March 12 (Reuters): Pakistani police wielding batons beat lawyers in Lahore today as protests mounted against government moves to sack the country’s top judge.

Details of allegations against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary have not been released, but legal analysts said the action against him might be related to his efforts to make the government account for people who disappeared after being taken into custody.

The government’s decision on Friday to suspend Chaudhary has given ammunition to critics of President Pervez Musharraf who is expected to seek another term in office late this year. Police sealed off Chaudhary’s residence yesterday morning, but the government denied he was under house arrest.

Police clashed with lawyers in business suits outside the Lahore high court building after the lawyers tried to march down the city’s main road. Lawyers with bloodied heads were seen after police waded in among them, hitting with bamboo batons. Lawyers threw stones at police damaging some vehicles, witnesses said.

“We’ll not tolerate any insult to the judiciary,” the chairman of the Lahore Bar Association, Mohammad Shah, said after the clash. About 25 people, including 10 policemen, were hurt, police and lawyers said.

The government said on Friday that a Supreme Judicial Council would hold an inquiry into “numerous complaints and serious allegations” against Chaudhary.

In Islamabad, a scuffle took place when police tried to stop opposition leaders from marching towards the chief justice at his residence. “We wanted to meet him but they did not allow us. This is the proof that the government is lying,” said Liaqat Baloch, a central leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal.

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