LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) – A crowd including Pakistani lawyers beat up a former government minister and ally of President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday, prompting a top pro-democracy lawyer to quit his post.
Dozens of attorneys surrounded ex-parliamentary affairs minister Sher Afgan Niazi in the eastern city of Lahore, television channels showed, highlighting tensions since Musharraf’s allies were trounced in elections in February.
Aitzaz Ahsan, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and leading supporter of ousted chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, said he was quitting after the incident.
“I have decided to resign and I regret the presence of lawyers at the scene where Sher Afgan Niazi was manhandled and beaten,” Ahsan told a news conference after trying help Niazi.
Television footage showed former minister Niazi being dragged through a crowd and beaten with shoes and fists before he was pushed into an ambulance by police. Niazi was later taken to hospital.
Ahsan blamed police for a lack of security.
“This resignation in no way suggests that I am pulling out of the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of judges,” who were sacked by Musharraf under emergency rule in November, he said.
Musharraf’s spokesman, retired Major General Rashid Qureshi, said the president condemned the incident “in the strongest possible terms”.
“President Pervez Musharraf strongly condemns the act of hooliganism in Lahore in which veteran politician and former federal minister Dr Sher Afgan Niazi was brutally assaulted and inhumanly treated,” Qureshi told AFP.
Musharraf “has called upon the concerned authorities to carry out an immediate inquiry so that the planners and perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to justice.”
Information Minister Sherry Rehman — a member of the party of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto whose party won the most seats in the elections nearly two months ago — said the government had ordered an inquiry.
The incident comes ahead of a likely showdown between Musharraf, a key ally in the US “war on terror”, and Pakistan’s new government over its pledge to reinstate the sacked judges.