Eight judges among dozens sacked by Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf were reappointed by the government on Wednesday, a move condemned by many lawyers as a political stunt.
The decision comes two days after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif quit the government over differences with leading coalition partner Asif Ali Zardari over the issue of the sackings, which set off months of political turmoil.
The legal community described the move as a "conspiracy" to harm their demands for the restoration of all judges, including independent-minded chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Chaudhry was among dozens of superior judges fired by Musharraf last year under emergency rule.
"Eight former judges of the Sindh High Court took oath today," provincial law secretary Agha Rafiq told reporters in Karachi.
They have not been reinstated but freshly appointed, he said, a technicality that allows the government to hold off on any change to the status of the sacked judges.
"This is a conspiracy aimed at dividing the judges and lawyers," Karachi bar council leader Rashid Razvi told AFP.
The judges had previously refused offers to return to their jobs, insisting on reinstatement of all including chief justice Chaudhry.
"We are deeply sad and disappointed," he said, said Aitezaz Ahsan, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and a leader of the lawyers' movement.
He said the eight who took office "gave up when our victory was in sight."
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.
Musharraf, whose allies were trounced in February elections, resigned under threat of impeachment last week, but the ruling coalition has since collapsed after failing to agree on how to restore the judges.