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Sharif calls for chief justice's release

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif asks the government to release sacked chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry immediately
By Muhammad Najeeb | IANS, Islamabad
UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2008 07:55 PM IST

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday asked the government to release sacked chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry immediately, saying the people will get him "released" themselves if the government did not do so.

"I tell you to release him, he's chief justice of Pakistan...otherwise people who have voted against (President Pervez) Musharraf will get him released. They will break all the barriers," he roared outside the Judges' Colony here, addressing a group of lawyers and civil society members.

A gathering of about 100 people was chanting slogans against Musharraf and demanding immediate release and restoration of Justice Chaudhry, when Sharif accompanied by his brother Shahbaz and other leaders of his party reached there and addressed the rally.

When Sharif arrived on the scene, the police were using batons and teargas to disperse the protestors.

"Recognize these people who are beating the protestors and we'll see them," Sharif said angrily. The policemen then stepped backward and Sharif addressed the people.

"Let me assure you, the chief justice will be restored very soon, judiciary will be independent, media will be free very soon and lawyers will be able to work with freedom," he said minutes before going into a meeting with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for crucial talks on the government formation after Monday's elections.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) won 67 seats in the 272-member National Assembly and holds key to the government formation being the second largest party after PPP that secured the highest number of seats, 88, but fell short of majority.

Earlier, Chaudhry, who has been under house arrest for three months, addressed lawyers in Karachi by telephone and appealed to the newly elected parliamentarians not to endorse the "illegal" steps taken by Musharraf after he imposed emergency on November 3.

Chaudhry and all other judges of the Supreme and high courts were dismissed through a presidential order on November 3 last year when Musharraf imposed emergency, suspending the constitution and human rights in the country.

Later, only those judges of the superior courts were allowed to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) who showed allegiance to Musharraf. Since then Chaudhry and other judges have been under house arrest.

There were rumours Wednesday that Chaudhry and others were released after opposition parties defeated the candidates and parties backed by Musharraf but Chaudhry said he was still under arrest.

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