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Chaudhry back as top Pakistan judge

world Updated: Mar 23, 2009 01:36 IST

Pakistan’s sacked top judge Iftikhar Chaudhry got back his office on Sunday, a week after the government gave in to protests that took the nuclear-armed nation on the threshold of civil unrest. Chaudhry resumed his post as Supreme Court Chief Justice at midnight and immediately assigned panels of judges to hear cases whose dates were also fixed, according to a court statement.

Chaudhry and 60 other jurists were fired by former president Pervez Musharraf in November 2007, amid fears that the judiciary might disqualify him for simultaneously holding the offices of president and the military chief.

This triggered mass protests by lawyers and anti-Musharraf parties, which trounced the former military strongman’s political allies in the 2008 elections while rallying on the issue of judges’ ouster.

An unnatural alliance formed by the widower of slain premier Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari, and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif forced Musharraf to quit the presidency in August over threats of impeachment.

Most of the deposed judges resumed their posts, but Chaudhry refused to buckle under pressure and take a fresh oath under a controversial presidential law. Zardari replaced Musharraf but backed out on promises to reinstate Chaudhry, making Sharif sit in the opposition.

The differences reached crisis proportions last month when a controversial Supreme Court verdict barred Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz, from elected office.