The attack came two days before a planned rally in the southern city in support of Chaudhry who drew large crowds of supporters earlier in the week when he addressed lawyers in Lahore.

 

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Malik said it was part of a campaign of intimidation against those working for the reinstatement of the supreme court's suspended chief justice.

 

Widespread protests

 

Chaudhry's suspension triggered countrywide protests and calls for Musharraf to step down.

 

Malik said: "It will not deter me from representing the chief justice and we will carry on our campaign for the independence of the judiciary."

 

He stopped short of naming any specific suspects.

 

Pakistan has been slipping towards political crisis ever since Musharraf, a significant ally of the US, suspended Chaudhry on March 9 over allegations of misconduct.

 

The government insists the move was not political and said it has evidence that Chaudhry sought unwarranted favours for himself and relatives - something the judge denies.

 

But its action has angered lawyers, drawn wide condemnation in the media and galvanised Pakistan's fragmented political opposition, which is intensifying its campaign against Musharraf's plan to seek another term as president later this year.