Former Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said President Pervez Musharraf must be held accountable for all his actions as thousands of protestors gathered near parliament Islamabad to demand the restoration of judges sacked by the embattled ex-military ruler.
In a show of strength, about 20,000 protestors assembled last night at a ground located a stone's throw from parliament and the Presidency to demand the reinstatement of the judges deposed during last year's emergency.
Amidst the chanting of slogans like "Go Musharraf go" and "Hang Musharraf", the crowd was addressed by top leaders like Sharif, Supreme Court Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan and Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan.
"Listen Pervez Musharraf," Sharif said in his emotional speech. "We had said that you should accept the people's verdict (in the February 18 general election) and give up your post and go home with dignity. You did not accept the people's decision."
"Now the people have given a new judgement for you -- they want you to be held accountable," he said as the crowd chanted "Hang Musharraf".
Sharif added: "Mr Musharraf, the people's jirga does not want just your removal. You must account for all your actions over the past eight and half years. You cannot be given a safe exit."
Though lawyers, students, workers of PML-N, Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehrik-e-Insaf and civil society activists began gathering last evening, Sharif and the other leaders addressed the protestors early this morning, after which they dispersed.
The PML-N chief said, "Everything will be achieved if the judges are restored." He made the people pledge that they would not rest and that they would not let anyone else rest till the judges are restored.
Sharif also questioned the ruling Pakistan People's Party's failure to reinstate the deposed judges in keeping with an agreement signed in March by PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Sharif to form the ruling coalition.
"I can't understand why that agreement was not acted upon," he said.
The "long march" of the lawyers' movement from different parts of the country to Islamabad and the rally represented a "new ray of hope for Pakistan" that would lead to the "restoration of the constitution, law and judges and the burial of dictators once and for all", Sharif said.
Imran Khan, who was among the first leaders to address the rally at around midnight, said there is no place in the superior judiciary for judges who had sworn allegiance to Musharraf. The independence of the judiciary is not possible in the presence of these judges, he said.
He called on Sharif's PML-N party to introduce a resolution in parliament to restore the deposed judges.
"Prosperity and progress of the nation is not possible in the absence of a free judiciary and supremacy of law," Khan said.
The protestors, who were carrying placards and banners denouncing Musharraf, dispersed this morning. Leaders of the lawyers' movement had earlier said they would stage a sit-in at the ground near parliament till the deposed judges are restored but later changed their plans.