"No one will be allowed to disturb peace."
Police detained dozens of protesters in Karachi Thursday as lawyers and opposition political workers launched a four day cross country march for the reinstatement of the country's top judge. Law-enforcement officers in riot gear bundled protesters into waiting vans after baton-charging a crowd of anti-government activists outside the provincial High Court building in Karachi.
"No one will be allowed to disturb peace in the city," Karachi police chief Waseem Ahmed told reporters shortly after the action.
Later on some 1,500 people left in a motor convoy for Islamabad where they planned to stage an open-end sit-in in the capital, beginning Monday, But they were stopped on the main highway leaving Karachi and some 50 people were arrested, Sama television reported. The angry crowd pelted the police with stones and set on fire to two vehicles.
Authorities have slapped a ban on political rallies and public gatherings in the most populous provinces of Sindh and Punjab, through which the protest rally is to travel before reaching Islamabad. More than 500 political activists and lawyers have been arrested in the two provinces over the past two days to ward off mass agitation, officials and media reports said.
In Quetta, the capital of the south-western province of Balochistan, several hundred lawyers led by Ali Ahmed Kurd also started a march, planning to join their comrades in Sindh."I'm 1,000-per-cent confident that we will end our sit-in only after the restoration of an independent judiciary," Kurd said.
The demonstrators want Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to honour his pledge to restore former Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was sacked under emergency rule in November 2007 by then-military strongman Pervez Musharraf.
Pakistan's opposition leader and ex-P.M, Nawaz Sharif, has thrown his full support behind the lawyers, giving a boost to the protest campaign, which threatens to destabilize the coalition government of Pakistan People's Party.Sharif was recently disqualified by the nation's apex court from holding any public office. His brother, Shahbaz Sharif, also had to step down as Punjab's chief minister after a similar ban.
The government has warned the former P.M of sedition charges for asking the public to participate in the protest, dubbed a "Long March," but Sharif said these were defining
moments for the country and "people must come forward to save Pakistan."
The numbers of protesters are expected to swell as the rally nears Islamabad where paramilitary troops are being deployed. Geo television reported that the authorities might impose curfew in the city on March, while all the entry points will be blocked with barbed wire and huge containers.