New Delhi: Defiant lawyers hit the streets of Pakistan on Thursday, kicking off their Long March in the Punjab province. The march mirrors the protests by lawyers against former president Musharraf two years ago when more than 40 of them were killed in demonstrations in Karachi.
Though not that violent yet, Thursday's marchers echoed a similar resolve.
Former Supreme Court Bar Association president, Aitzaz Ahsan said, "Hopefully breaking all barriers, the lawyers of Pakistan will reach Rawalpindi on March 15 and then reach the Islamabad parade ground on March 16. I am sure we will stage a dharna."
The lawyers poured in from Quetta, Karachi and Lahore and their plan is to head to Islamabad on March 16 for a massive demonstration outside the Parliamant there, violating Section 144 which had been imposed.
However, the man of the moment, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, was missing from the rally apparently due to a security threat. Pakistan's Interior Ministry had promised the Sharif brothers VVIP security, while warning them of a serious threat to their life.
Earlier, Sharif had told the Guardian that top ranking government officials were behind a plot to kill him. He told CNN-IBN that he feared a suicide attack .
In the meanwhile, the media has been abuzz with reports and rumours of a deal between President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. The ruling PPP has reportedly agreed to end the Governor's rule in Punjab and even to consider the reinstatement of deposed chief justice Iftikaar Mohammad Chaudhury.
President of the Awami National Party, Asfandyar Wali Khan said, "President Zardari has accepted both the demands given by Nawaz Sharif. We are now working on the modalities."
The growing turmoil saw New Delhi making a statement of concern.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, "We do hope this will be resolved by their own system and their own mechanism. This is an internal matter of Pakistan's.
But as the past has shown, the raging fire across the border always ends up spreading its heat across the region.
(With Aftab Borka in Karachi)