Former Chief Justice Ifthikar Mohammad Chaudhry was on Monday freed from house arrest minutes after newly elected Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani ordered that all judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf be immediately released.
<b1>A potential confrontation between incoming PPP-led coalition government and Musharraf brewed after authorities freed all the judges who were deposed and detained during last year's Emergency imposed by the embattled President.
Chaudhry, who was sacked one year back, has been in house arrest for the last four months. Some 60 judges of the superior judiciary were sacked on November 3 last and several of them are still under house arrest.
Barbed wire barricades were cut and concrete barriers were removed from around the residence of Chaudhry in the Judges Colony in Islamabad. A smiling Chaudhry appeared on the balcony with his children and lawyers and waved to the gathered crowd.
"On behalf of myself and other judges of SC and HC who were illegaly and unconstitutionally placed under house arrest on Nov 3 (last year), I offer my thanks," Chaudhry said.
Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamir Amir Ali said Gillani's order had been implemented and "all the deposed judges are free to move about."
Shortly after the release of the judges, former premier Nawaz Sharif whose PML-N is part of the incoming government said the cause for which the coalition partners stood has "moved forward." Sharif vowed that all the sacked judges will be restored within 30 days through a Parliament resolution.
Chaudhry's supporters were seen beating drums, dancing and waving PPP and Pakistani flags.
The deposed Chief Justice and his family had been under house arrest for over 4 months and authorities had also tried to evict him from his official residence.Chaudhary lauded the movement for the restoration of rule of Law and Constitution.
"Our goal is still some distance away and we have to move forward in such a way that they are no obstruction to our progress," he said. "I will always expect such cooperation from you."
Pakistani police on Monday reduced security and removed barricades around the residences of all judges. Hundreds of lawyers, civil society activists and reporters rushed to the area after Gillani announced in the Parliament that the judges should be freed.
The entry of all persons including the media, to the Judges Colony had been barred after Musharraf declared an emergency and sacked 60 judges of the superior Judiciary on November 3 last year.
Protesters demanding the release of the detained judges were usually dispersed by the police using tear gas and battons, but today policemen offered no such resistance when the activists walked into the Judges Colony.
Security was also reduced around homes of deposed Judges in Lahore and other cities. The lawyers and activists shouted slogans against Musharraf and waved posters with pictures of slain premier Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry.
Some people distributed sweets to celebrate the order issued by Geelani.
Supreme Court Bar Association president and PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan said the detention of the judges were illegal and he had complete faith that they would be re-instated by the new government.
Reacting to the announcement made by Geelani, deposed Supreme Court Judge Khalil Ramday told reporters in Lahore, "it is a step in the right direction, despite of the immense wrong done to us."