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Lawyers stage protests over judges issue

world Updated: Aug 28, 2008 20:45 IST

Hundreds of Pakistani lawyers protested on Thursday to demand the reinstatement of judges sacked by former president Pervez Musharraf, an issue at the heart of political instability in Islamabad.

Several cities saw the black-suited lawyers joined by political party workers and other supporters carrying black flags as they blocked key roads for two hours in Islamabad, shouting slogans against the government.

"Reinstate judges" they chanted, saying that "War will continue" until the judiciary's independence is restored.

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, deposed dozens of judges under a state of emergency last November when it appeared they would challenge his re-election as president the previous month.

The sackings sparked large and sometimes violent protests by Pakistan's influential lawyers.

A group of angry lawyers here today tore down posters of PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto and a leading presidential candidate to succeed Musharraf in a September 6 election.

In the eastern city of Lahore hundreds of lawyers staged sit-down protests in front of the provincial assembly building and three other public sites.

"Those judges who have taken a new oath of their offices have accepted the illegal actions of former president Pervez Musharraf," lawyers' leader Aitzaz Ahsan said.

"We are not fighting for our jobs but for principles," he added.

In the central city of Multan 1,000 lawyers, traders, political workers and other supporters blocked the main national highway, bringing all inter-city traffic to a halt.