| A policeman arrests lawyer Ali Ahmed Kurd in Islamabad on Saturday. (Reuters)
Islamabad, Sept 29: Pakistani police wielding batons and firing tear gas clashed today with lawyers and activists opposed to President Pervez Musharraf as the election commission accepted his nomination for an October 6 vote.
Last week, the lawyers had pledged to lay siege to the election commission building during the scrutiny of Musharraf’s nomination papers.
Yesterday, the supreme court dismissed challenges to army chief Musharraf’s bid to seek re-election, clearing a major hurdle to his securing another term.
Violence erupted outside the election commission offices in Islamabad when a group of about 200 lawyers and activists tried to march from the supreme court, across an avenue, to the election commission after Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz arrived. Aziz officially proposed Musharraf for President, and was at the commission in case he needed to defend the nomination during scrutiny.
Musharraf’s opponents later raised objections to his nomination on various grounds, including that he remains army chief, but the commission rejected them.
Despite heavy police deployment, the lawyers managed to break the security barrier and reach the election commission building. However, the police beat the protesters back with tear gas and baton attacks. The police also thrashed senior lawyer Ali Ahmed Kurd and arrested him. Several Opposition legislators including Rana Mehmood-ul-Hassan and Hanif Abbasi were also arrested outside Parliament Lodges.
"The government should be ashamed of using brute force against lawyers and journalists. The country has literally become a police state,” secretary-general Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said in Islamabad.
The police also baton- charged journalists representing both print and electronic media injuring many of them. As the situation deteriorated, authorities stopped Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz from leaving the election commission building. Deputy information minister Tariq Azeem, who was accompanying the Prime Minister was manhandled by angry journalists as he came out of the commission’s building.