RAWALPINDI, Feb 18: An army soldier provoked the city lawyers on Monday to protest and call for a strike when he hit a recalcitrant lawyer with his rifle butt to keep the road clear for the army chief's daily drive to the GHQ.
Colleagues of the lawyer Shafiqur Rehman said he suffered head injury. They demanded that the army chief should change his route, and the Punjab Bar Council called for a strike by the lawyers on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the lawyers have lodged a complaint against “unknown soldiers” with the Civil Lines police.
VIP movements test the patience of stalled commuters routinely, but Monday's incident created an ugly situation because of its violent nature.
It was the second such brush with armymen at this spot in six months.
In September last year, soldiers guarding the route had roughed up a police assistant sub-inspector for crossing the stretch of the road in front of the district courts that their chief takes to his office.
“That year (2012), over a dozen lawyers complained to me about rough treatment at the hands of army personnel during the COAS’ movements,” the former president of the Rawalpindi District Bar, Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, told Dawn.
“We lawyers understand the army chief needs protecting, but his security staff should realise that we are not aliens, nor are the ordinary citizen, and need to be treated with respect,” he added.
On Monday, colleagues said, lawyer Rehman had parked his car in a ‘No Parking’ zone of the road outside the district courts - an unavoidable practice because the parking space designated for the courts is insufficient and inappropriate for the large number of lawyers and court visitors.
According to lawyer Sardar Sarfaraz Hussain, an army officer accosted Rehman when he was coming towards the courts after parking his car but he ignored the officer. That apparently enraged a soldier who hit the lawyer with the butt of his rifle.
After getting first aid, the injured lawyer went to the district bar and narrated the incident to colleagues.
Over 200 lawyers then gathered and marched towards the Army House situated close to the court complex.
But the marchers stopped at the first checkpost. There they chanted slogans against the manhandling of their colleague.
Their representatives, including the president of the Lahore High Court Bar Rawalpindi division, Ahsanuddin Sheikh, and president the Rawalpindi District Bar, Israrul Haq, took their grievance to Colonel Sharyar, the security in-charge at the Army House.
Advocate Sheikh demanded that the route of the army chief should be moved away from the courts as it disturbs the free movement of hundreds of litigants and lawyers.
The officer apologised for the happening and assured them of action against the army man. He also promised them to consider the lawyers’ proposal for changing the COAS route, Advocate Sheikh told Dawn.
Col (retired) Sardar Abdul Aziz Chandio, a senior advocate at district bar, commented to Dawn that the act of the soldier was tantamount to creating rift between the army and the civilian population and that he should be court martialled for that under the Pakistan Army Act 1952.
No action by the military authorities against the soldier would send a wrong message to the civilian population, particularly to the lawyers community, he said.