View Full Version : Pakistan's Ousted Judge To Lead New Rally

06-16-2007, 12:57 AM
Pakistan’s ousted judge to lead new rally


16 June 2007

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s suspended chief justice is expected to lead a fresh procession and a rally later Saturday as top US officials visit for talks with embattled President Pervez Musharraf.

Top judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was to travel in a motorcade the 290 kilometers (180 miles) from Islamabad to the industrial city of Faisalabad where he is due to address lawyers and political workers.

Military ruler Musharraf removed Chaudhry on March 9, sparking the biggest opposition movement in this nuclear-armed Islamic republic since the general seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

In a crackdown ahead of Chaudhry’s arrival, police arrested an unspecified number of activists of opposition parties. The parties said hundreds of their workers had been rounded up in central Punjab province.

The judge was to address a convention of lawyers and was expected to renew his rallying call for the independence of the judiciary, as he did when he spoke to similar gatherings at a number of other places in the country.

Pakistan Supreme Court Bar president Munir A. Malik told AFP that Chaudhry will address members of the bar associations in Pindi Bhattian and Chiniot towns en route to Faisalabad.

Tens of thousands greeted the chief justice along the way when he travelled to the northwestern city of Abbotabad and Lahore in the east on previous occasions.

But more than 40 people were killed after clashes between rival political factions broke out when Chaudhry tried and failed to address a meeting in the southern port city of Karachi.

Chaudhry’s Faisalabad visit comes as three senior US officials were in Islamabad in an unprecedented collective visit to Washington’s key ally in the “war on terror.”

The visits of the key officials were apparently meant to press army strongman Musharraf to hold free and fair elections due this year or early 2008.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte arrived in the Pakistani capital Friday while his assistant Richard Boucher has already been here for the last three days holding meetings with government officials, election commission authorities and opposition parties.

The chief of the US Central Command covering Iraq and Afghanistan, Admiral William Fallon, also flew in here Friday.

Analysts say Washington is keen to support Musharraf’s administration amid the judicial crisis because it regards him as a bulwark against Taleban militants leading an insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Boucher said earlier this week that the US expected that elections should be “free, fair and transparent” and conform to international standards.

But he indicated there was no pressure on Musharraf to quit his dual role as army chief and president despite calls from the opposition.

“That particular question needs to be answered but I think we have a bit of patience in seeing it answered at whatever is the appropriate time,” Boucher said, according to a US transcript of an interview with Pakistani TV channels.

Musharraf abandoned Pakistan’s support for Afghanistan’s Taleban regime after the 9/11 attacks on the United States and became a central ally in Washington’s fight against Al Qaeda and other Islamists.

Opposition leaders, including ex-cricketer Imran Khan, say Musharraf suspended the independent-minded Chaudhry to make it easier to be re-elected as president-in-uniform by the outgoing parliament in defiance of the constitution.