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Last Updated: Monday, 5 November 2007, 10:07 GMT
Eyewitness: Karachi crackdown
Police in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi have detained dozens of lawyers protesting against the imposition of emergency rule by President Musharraf. Many were also beaten. The BBC's M Ilyas Khan describes the security crackdown in the city.


The premises of the Sindh high court and the district courts in Karachi were placed under heavy security overnight in anticipation of protests by Pakistani lawyers.

Scuffles between lawyers and police in Karachi, 5 November
There were scuffles at the gates of the high court in Karachi

Some judges, including Sindh's Chief Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed, had decided to attend court despite having refused to take a fresh oath when Gen Musharraf declared emergency rule.

These judges were planning to gather at Chief Justice Sabih's residence and proceed to the court from there, but the plan was dropped when all roads to the chief justice's residence were blocked by police.

I drove around Justice Sabih's residence on Monday morning and saw police vans preventing people from entering at both ends of the street.

Another police van was blocking a narrow alleyway that provides access to his residence from a third direction.

While I was taking pictures of the area, three security personnel held me, took away my camera and deleted the pictures.

Baton charges

At the high court, lawyers started gathering inside the vast premises at about 0730 local time in the morning.

I understand that I am still the chief justice. I haven't received any order of my dismissal
Sindh Chief Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed

The court was surrounded by heavy contingents of police and paramilitary rangers who were allowing only lawyers inside the premises.

Everybody else was refused entry, including litigants.

Over the next hour, at least four judges - who had declined to take the oath under the provisional constitutional order (PCO) declared on Saturday - attempted to go into the building and were sent back by the police.

Meanwhile, a group of lawyers walked up to the gate which is used by the judges, and chanted slogans against Gen Musharraf.

Sensing trouble, the police started to refuse entry into the court to lawyers as well. Lawyers inside the court then forced the gate open to let their colleagues in, and some of them started chanting slogans.

Just then the police pounced on them with batons, severely beat up some of the lawyers, bundled them into a couple of police vans and drove them away to the police station.

Arrests

At the same time, police and rangers moved inside the court premises and made more arrests.

EMERGENCY RESTRICTIONS
Constitutional safeguards on life and liberty curtailed
Police get wide powers of arrest
Suspects can be denied access to lawyers
Freedom of movement restricted
Private TV stations taken off air
New rules curtail media coverage of suicide bombings or militant activity
Chief justice replaced, others made to swear oath of loyalty
Supreme Court banned from rescinding emergency order

The registrar of the court later told the BBC that 43 lawyers had been arrested inside the court premises.

The plainclothes men among the police also climbed the bar room building and removed a black flag the lawyers had hoisted as a mark of protest.

Police also surrounded the bar room in which about 150 lawyers were said to be confined.

A court official said that the police were talking to lawyer leaders demanding that some be handed to the police.

One of the leaders of the lawyers and former president of Sindh high court bar association, Akhtar Hussain, said more than 100 lawyers, including those at district courts, had been arrested by the Karachi police.

"Emergency is only meant for the media and the judiciary. TV screens are blank and the judiciary has collapsed. Everything else is normal in the country," he told the BBC.

Chief Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed told the BBC: "I understand that I am still the chief justice. I haven't received any order of my dismissal. In fact, the Supreme Court issued an order on Saturday, pre-empting the imposition of emergency in the country. That still remains a legal order."

Asked whether he was under house arrest, he said: "They haven't given me any order to that effect. But when I started for my office, they told me I couldn't leave my house."

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