Pakistani judge travels to meet supporters
Suspended Pak chief justice travelled through the east of the country on his latest trip to meet supporters in a campaign posing a growing challenge to Musharraf.Updated: Jun 24, 2007 12:40 IST
Pakistan's suspended chief justice travelled through the east of the country on Saturday on his latest trip to meet supporters in a campaign posing a growing challenge to President Pervez Musharraf.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, accompanied by dozens of vehicles carrying lawyers and opposition supporters waving flags, was heading from Lahore to the city of Multan, where he was due to address a meeting of lawyers.
Musharraf's suspension of Chaudhry on March 9 has whipped up an anti-government campaign, uniting lawyers defending the independence of the judiciary and opposition parties eyeing elections due by the turn of the year.
The campaign is the most serious challenge to Musharraf, a US ally, since the army chief seized power in a 1999 coup.
Chaudhry, who is fighting for reinstatement through the Supreme Court, has steered clear of party politics since he was suspended. He has not given interviews and has limited his addresses to meetings of lawyers in different cities and towns.
But supporters have had no qualms in criticising Musharraf.
"It is not now an ordinary movement, it has turned into a mass movement against the army generals who have intentionally ruined all institutions to concentrate their power," one of Chaudhry's lawyers, Ali Ahmed Kurd, told Reuters.
"I warn rulers that if someone tries to grab power or prolong his rule by imposing martial law or an emergency, this movement will turn into a violent one," Kurd later said in a speech to lawyers in the town of Okara.
Musharraf, who eyes a second five-year term this year, has dismissed speculation he might impose a state of emergency to end the agitation against him. He has vowed that presidential and general elections will be held on time.
Though Chaudhry is accused of misconduct, analysts believe Musharraf wanted him out because he feared the judge would allow constitutional challenges against his plans to be re-elected by sitting assemblies before they are dissolved for a general poll.
But the opposition, calling for an end to military rule in a country that has been run by generals for more than half of its 60-year history, is demanding he give up his post of army chief.
"The message is spreading, awareness is growing because of the obstinacy of rulers to see the writing on the wall," a senior lawyer supporting Chaudhry, Tariq Hassan, told Reuters.
Lawyers say their campaign will not end, even if Chaudhry is reinstated as head of the Supreme Court.
"His reinstatement was an objective, it's still an objective, but not the only one. Now, we have wider objective and that's restoration of full, complete and real democracy," Hassan said.
First Published: Jun 23, 2007 23:03 IST