Saturday, June 2, 2007

Pakistanis Defy Demonstration Ban To Support Sacked Chief Justice

[Updated below]

Turkish Press reports on a huge rally in Pakistan, in support of suspended chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry:

Ousted Pakistan judge draws thousands opposing Musharraf
Pakistan's suspended top judge led a procession Saturday that drew thousands of opposition supporters, witnesses said, as political pressure on military ruler President Pervez Musharraf grows.

The weight of the roadside crowds, chanting "Go Musharraf Go!", periodically halted the motorcade led by the ousted head of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, they said.

The procession, comprising hundreds of cars, was the latest in a series of events to draw public support for the judge since Musharraf suspended him on March 9 over alleged misconduct.

The president's move against the independent-minded Chaudhry, who has challenged the suspension, has sparked the biggest crisis of the general's eight-year rule.
The AP wire reports a few more details:

Over 50,000 greet suspended Pakistani chief justice for rally, speech
Tens of thousands of people gathered for the biggest rally yet against the president's suspension of Pakistan's chief justice, giving the jurist a joyous reception ahead of a speech to lawyers in an opposition stronghold.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry on March 9, triggering a political crisis that has challenged the general's grip on power as he prepares to seek another five-year term later this year.

Witnesses estimated at least 50,000-60,000 people gathered along the road to Abbotabad, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Islamabad.

Dozens accompanied Chaudhry's convoy when it left the capital, where it defied the city's new two-month ban on gatherings of more than five people. The procession kept growing as it neared Abbotabad.
There's a lot more background information here (and here and here). And I will try to keep you posted.

UPDATE: OOOH! Now there's a mainstream American report on the situation ... from ... wait for it ... CNN via AP via Reuters[?!]:

Huge crowds greet Pakistan judge
Thousands turned out to greet Pakistan's suspended chief justice as he traveled to a northwestern town on Saturday to muster support for his legal battle against President Pervez Musharraf's attempt to sack him.

Chants of "Go Musharraf Go", that have become a signature of the three-month-old judicial crisis, were raised as Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry passed through towns and villages on his way to address the legal fraternity in Abbottabad.

Along the way, Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the legal team defending Chaudhry against charges of misconduct, delivered a sharp riposte to a statement of support for General Musharraf issued by the army's top brass a day earlier.

"Our movement cannot be stopped through barrels of guns, or through the threat of tanks and army. We will continue our struggle," Ahsan said to applause from a crowd of over 3,000 in the town of Haripur.

Lawyers and the opposition see the March 9 suspension of Chaudhry as an attack on the independence of the judiciary and their protest has turned into a broad campaign for the restoration of full democracy in the country.

"The constitution gives the people of Pakistan the right to rule the country. We will no longer allow any army general to rule the country," Ali Ahmed Kurd, another member of Chaudhry's legal team, told opposition activists in Taxila.
And more.