Pak to see massive rallies
In one of the biggest political showdowns in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf and suspended Chief Justice Iftikar M Chaudhry will address separate rallies on Saturday to demonstrate their public support.
Chaudhry, whose suspension has sparked one of the biggest political protests in Pakistan left for Karachi by air to take part in the lawyer's convention.
He was accompanied by his defence lawyers, noted human rights activist Asma Jahangir and some media personnel. Reports from Karachi said ahead of his arrival, most of the roads from the airport to the city were blocked by vehicles by the local authorities. A number of lorries and heavy vehicles were part on the road with flat tires so that they could not move.
Inside the city a large crowd of MQM supporters from various parts of Sindh have converged at the mausoleum of Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah where Chaudhry was scheduled to go to lay wreath and later address a lawyers' convention being organised in connection with 50th anniversary of Sindh High Court Bar Association.
The MQM, which is the local ruling alliance partner, is holding a big rally in favour of Musharraf. Musharraf would address, what the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q leaders claimed, a "massive public rally" in front of Parliament in capital Islamabad, while the ruling coalition ally Muthahida Quami Movement (MQM) geared up to hold a big demonstration in Karachi in his support.
Tension prevailed in Karachi ahead of the planned rallies with the provincial government deploying around 12,000 para-military and police personnel to maintain peace.
Opposition parties, including the Mutthaida Majlis Amal (MMA) and Peoples Party, claimed that police have picked up some 1,100 of their workers since yesterday in a massive crackdown.
The two pro-government rallies were planned to counter expected massive public response to Chaudhry, who last weekend drew huge crowds during his road travel from Islamabad to Lahore where he addressed a lawyers' convention.