How a photo galvanised Pakistan's lawyers' movement

How a photo galvanised Pakistan's lawyers' movement

It is said a picture speaks a thousand words but in Pakistan, a photograph taken on March 13, 2007 changed the history of the country's judicial system for ever.

A photo capturing the moment when policemen grabbed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry by his hair and tried to shove him into a car led to the lawyers' movement that eventually hastened the fall of President Pervez Musharraf's dictatorial regime.

"He is the Chief Justice! He is the top judge of the country! Why you are manhandling him! Don’t humiliate him!” photographer Sajjad Ali Qureshi vividly recalls Chaudhry’s wife appealing to authorities as her husband was unceremoniously relieved from his duties by Musharraf.

Qureshi, an Islamabad-based photographer, witnessed the scene outside the Judges Colony on that fateful day by pretending to be a labourer, The Express Tribune daily reported today.
His photo, which appeared in The Nation newspaper the next day, was a game changer for the lawyers' movement. It caused an uproar and acting Chief Justice Javed Iqbal took immediate suo motu notice and summoned top police officials.

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan of Peshawar High Court (now a judge of the Supreme Court) led the tribunal that conducted an investigation into the incident.

The movement by lawyers and political parties picked up momentum and Chaudhry was restored to his position as Chief Justice while Musharraf stepped down after being threatened with impeachment.

"When I appeared before the tribunal, Justice Ejaz said to me, 'Don’t worry. Tell us what you saw,'" Qureshi said.

"I was scared and the judge offered me a glass of water. The tribunal’s head asked me to relax."
He said a police officer, present when the photo was taken, later complained to Qureshi, blaming him for troubles with his family, which saw him in the picture oblivious to the plight of the Chief Justice.

The night before, on March 12, 2007, police removed the national flag atop the Chief Justice's official residence and all vehicles outside the home. On March 13, Chaudhry had to walk to the Supreme Court and his refusal to sit in a police van led to his manhandling.

"After word of a photographer (being) at the scene got around, police and officials of intelligence agencies tried to snatch my camera from me but I managed to escape from the scene," Qureshi said.

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