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Several held in Pak ahead of protests

The protests have been called in Pak against the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.

world Updated: Mar 26, 2007 13:56 IST

Hundreds of people were arrested across Pakistan ahead of Monday's protest organised by the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) against the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz again urged parties not to "politicise" the matter and not try to influence the legal and constitutional process that would decide the fate of the judge accused of misusing his office to promote his son.

The decision to organise the protest demonstrations in various cities was made by exiled former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif - the heads of the two major parties in the ARD, the Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz - at a meeting in London last week.

Chaudhry's case is to come up before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) that would be presided over by the new Acting Chief Justice Rana Bhagwandas, sworn in last Saturday.

Bhagwandas ruled out removal of two judges on the SJC that Chaudhry has objected to because they have cases pending against them.

The only judge to be dropped, Daily Times quoted him as saying, is Justice Sardar Raza, who cannot continue as council member in the presence of three more senior judges of the Supreme Court.

About his possible meeting with suspended Chief Justice Chaudhry, his senior, Bhagwandas said, "This question has no answer."

He also declined to answer questions relating to the completion of the SJC proceedings on the presidential reference against Chaudhry, Associated Press of Pakistan news agency reported.

It is apparent that Justice Bhagwandas is steering clear of any controversial case before the apex court.

He will not preside over the bench that is to hear the petitions about the 'missing' persons.

He has assigned that task to another bench headed by Justice Javed Iqbal, the third in seniority, whom he replaced as acting chief justice last week.

The apex court is to hear a batch of 11 petitions by families of those who have been allegedly picked for questioning by various intelligence agencies and are held indefinitely without trial.