According to press reports yesterday Islamabad witnessed a significant increase in the number of people protesting against the suspension of Chief Justice of Pakistan.
Your Blogger is of the opinion that if hundreds of political activists had not been arrested the night before and there had been none of the dozens of police road blocks set up all over Islamabad, the crowds would have much more substantial.
As a US reporter on the scene informs us:
Protesters said they could not draw bigger crowds because police detained hundreds of activists Thursday and set up many checkpoints and blockades. Between Rawalpindi and neighboring Islamabad there were 13 police checks, protesters said.
Arshad Shah, a mechanic, with hair down his back, said he told police who stopped his car on the four-hour drive from Lahore to Islamabad that he was a Sufi Islam holy man. "I told them there was a big Sufi party, otherwise they may have arrested me," he said
And their anger was palpable:
People chanted "Musharraf dog," or simply, "doggie, doggie," which caused at least one police officer to laugh.And the Army was not spared either:
…Atif Hussain, 35, said he and some friends brought about 30 tires from a used-tire shop. They set fire to two or three at a time, hoping to send a message. Hussain said he quit his government intelligence agency job 10 days ago in protest over Chaudhry's removal.
"Musharraf broke the constitution," Hussain said. "If we burn tires, what's the difference? We are small people. We are just sending a signal. His office is right behind here, so maybe he can see all this smoke."
Traditionally off-limits to criticism, the powerful military was maligned almost as often as President Pervez Musharraf, who is also the head of the army.
"The generals and colonels command no respect," said Kamran Khan, 36, a businessman from Lahore, as he marched in front of the Supreme Court on Constitution Avenue, which was closed for the demonstration. "People hate the military, just because of Musharraf."
This anti-Army trend was confirmed by Dawn as well:
Protesters were also carrying banners and placards inscribed with various slogans. One placard read: “Reduce the poor’s burden, reduce army by 80 per cent”. Another banner read: “India is a threat to Pakistan is a misconception. Poverty and unemployment are more serious threats to the country”. “Judiciary is superior to army. Get lost military dictator,” read a banner carried by some lawyers.
In Karachi demonstrating lawyers beat up Geo and ARY television reporters and cameramen and smashed their equipment. Senior bar association members came on television last night and apologized for this grave infraction. Some even suggested that it was likely to be a government ruse to create a divide between the lawyers and newsmen.
Your Blogger has been told by a source that the attacking lawyers were recognized as members of a local ethnic party, namely the MQM. While I cannot confirm the validity of this report, the fact that this party is part of the coalition government in Sindh does make it sound feasible.