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Pak suspends police chief after clashes

Pak Govt suspends Islamabad police chief and two other officials on a judge's orders on Monday following a violent crackdown on protests against Musharraf.
AFP | By Nasir Jaffry, Islamabad
UPDATED ON OCT 01, 2007 06:14 PM IST

Pakistan's government suspended the Islamabad police chief and two other officials on a judge's orders on Monday following a violent crackdown on protests against President Pervez Musharraf.

Dozens of people were injured when police baton-charged and tear-gassed lawyers and journalists during a rally on Saturday against military ruler Musharraf's plan to be re-elected in a vote on October 6.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, a thorn in the government's side since Musharraf tried to sack him in March, told the government to arrest Islamabad inspector general Marwat Shah earlier on Monday.

Shah "should be suspended and arrested because he is responsible for all that happened on Saturday," Chaudhry said at a special Supreme Court hearing that he called to probe the violence.

He also called for the suspension of the city's deputy administration chief and another senior police officer.

"The three officials have been suspended on the orders of Supreme Court of Pakistan," Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema told AFP.

Saturday's clashes erupted outside the country's election commission and near the Supreme Court itself as the commission approved Musharraf's candidature for another five-year term in power.

The court had the previous day dismissed opposition petitions against Musharraf's eligibility, ruling that he could contest the vote while keeping his role as army chief.

Chaudhry was not on the nine-judge bench that heard the case.

Video footage of the bloody clashes -- dubbed the "Battle of Constitution Avenue" by Pakistani newspapers after the city centre location of the violence -- was also shown to the court.

"We are extremely thankful to the chief justice," Mazhar Abbas, a senior official from the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, said on the steps of the court.

Musharraf, a key US ally who seized power in a coup eight years ago, has said he will quit his military role before November 15 if he wins the election.

He is expected to win the poll ahead of two opposition candidates as it is by a ballot of the national and provincial assemblies, in which his allies have a majority.

But the president still faces a last-ditch Supreme Court challenge lodged by the opposition against the election commission's approval of his nomination papers.

"We will move the court today against the acceptance of the candidature of General Musharraf," said the legal community's candidate for the presidency, former Supreme Court judge Wajihuddin Ahmad.

The party of former premier Benazir Bhutto has also fielded a candidate.

Musharraf has been at loggerheads with the Supreme Court since he suspended Chaudhry in March on misconduct charges.

The judge fought back with a mass protest campaign and was reinstated in July, subsequently handing down a string of troublesome rulings for the government.

Last week he ordered the release of more than 100 detained opposition leaders and also criticised Islamabad authorities for blockading the city with trucks and buses when Musharraf filed his election nomination papers.

Musharraf is meanwhile still battling a wave of Islamist violence sparked by the siege and storming of the Al-Qaeda-linked Red Mosque in Islamabad in July, which left around 100 people dead.

Fifteen people were killed on Monday morning when a suicide bomber disguised in a woman's burqa struck in the northwestern garrison town of Bannu.

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