Police Break up Protest by Lawyers in Pakistan Lawyers opposed to Gen. Pervez Musharraf's candidacy in next week's presidential election engaged in running battles with police Saturday in Islamabad.
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Police Break up Protest by Lawyers in Pakistan

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Police Break up Protest by Lawyers in Pakistan

Police Break up Protest by Lawyers in Pakistan

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(Soundbite of protests)

SIMON: That's the sound of a scene in Pakistan today where lawyers opposed to General Pervez Musharraf's candidacy in next week's presidential election engaged in running battles with police. The trouble erupted a day after Pakistan's Supreme Court rejected several petitions, which argued that it is illegal for the general to run or be elected.

NPR's Philip Reeves was at the scene and he joins us now from Islamabad.

Phil, thanks for being with us and tell us about what you saw.

PHILIP REEVES: Well, it was a fairly extraordinary day. There was actually quite a small number of lawyers - about 300 I suppose in all - that gathered there…

SIMON: That's a pretty large number of lawyers. That's like a brace of lawyers or something, yeah.

REEVES: There should be a collective noun for that, but they seemed small particularly when compared with the very large number of security forces that were gathered there with riot equipment and so on. I mean, they outnumbered them by six or seven to one.

The lawyers were expressing their anger in front of the TV cameras about the verdict and also showing that they want to carry on campaigning against Musharraf's candidacy for the presidential election. And then, it suddenly turned nasty. I mean, they moved towards - they, sort of, ran towards the election commission building.

Fights broke out between the police and the lawyers. The police started beating the lawyers with sticks. One of the lawyers started beating the police with sticks. And before long, we had tear gas flying into the premises of the Supreme Court, a very striking image that - as it's the highest court in the land. And also very disturbing scenes in which the police were picking up rocks and hurling them very hard at this group of lawyers who are all, by the way, dressed in rather surreally in black suits and black ties.

SIMON: Yeah. Phil, help us also understand the legal case because this is the Supreme Court that certainly in the past has been willing to rule against President Musharraf. What was the…

REEVES: Yes.

SIMON: …point the lawyers were trying to pursue?

REEVES: Well, it famously ruled against Musharraf, of course, in July when it ordered that the chief justice that Musharraf was trying to sack should be reinstated. But yesterday, various petitions that have been made to the court were really for legal, technical reasons were rejected by the court and most petitions were challenging Musharraf's candidacy for the presidency, which is in the election that goes before Pakistan's provincial and national parliaments next Saturday.

And now they say they want to carry on pushing that legal objections to Musharraf being - becoming president, which are various, but they wanted to do so at the election commission, but the election commission is widely considered pro-government. And so they knew they didn't have much hope there, and their next move, they say, will be to go back to the court. But time is running out.

NPR's Philip Reeves in Islamabad, thank you very much.

REEVES: You're welcome.

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