"This rally is aimed at sending a message to judiciary that it should not take orders from GHQ [army headquarters]," Imran Khan, an opposition leader and a former Pakistan cricket captain, told reporters outside the supreme court.

   

"The judiciary should work for the sake of country and not for a military dictator."

 

'Attack on judiciary'

   

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Pakistan's legal community regards Musharraf's action as an attack on the independence of the judiciary, while Chaudhry's defiance of the president has provided Musharraf's opponents with a ready-made cause in an election year.

 

Scores of police and paramilitary troops with batons, helmets and riot shields stood at the roadside outside the court as protesters swarmed Constitution Avenue, a broad thoroughfare lined with government buildings and courts.

   

There were up to 3,000 lawyers and activists from all opposition parties in the flag and banner-waving crowd. Anti-Musharraf rallies were also held in Karachi, Lahore and other cities.

   

About 500 loyalists from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League demonstrated in support of the president, waving photographs of him and chanting "We love you, Musharraf", but police barred them from marching towards the anti-Musharraf protesters.