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Central & South Asia
US backs Pakistan restoring judge
Washington says move will allow Islamabad to get back to fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2009 01:39 GMT

Thousands of lawyers and opposition supporters celebrated the move to restore Chaudhry [AFP]

The United States has welcomed the Pakistani government's decision to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as the country's chief justice while lawyers and opposition activists celebrated what they saw as a "people power" victory.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said on Monday that the move to reinstate Chaudhry would allow Islamabad to return its attention to the battle against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters operating along its border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan's decision was "a first step of what has to be an ongoing reconciliation and compromising of political views that can stabilise civilian democracy and rule of law, both of which are essential to ... preventing extremism and violence from stalking the Pakistani people and the country", Clinton told reporters on Monday.

In depth


 Why Pakistan cares about Chaudhry
 Pakistan diary: Gilani's move

Sensitive to the perception that US pressure had forced the hand of Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president, Clinton said the "Pakistanis themselves resolved the difficulties" without any US threat or demand.

But over the weekend, Clinton had called Zardari, who had repeatedly reneged on promises to restore Chaudhry, as well as Nawaz Sharif, the main opposition leader who had thrown his weight behind Chaudhry and whose followers had threatened to march on the capital.

Aid cut threat

A senior state department official said earlier that Clinton, in her calls, raised the prospect that US legislators could back away from US economic aid for Pakistan because of the turmoil.

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"Zardari will soon be in a hole - not only from Nawaz's pressure but also the lawmakers'."

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Chaudhry's reinstatement defused a potential violent confrontation between security forces and thousands of protesters as Sharif called off the opposition's "long march".

But fears remained over the country's security and the battle against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

On Monday, Pakistani officials said a bomber killed at least eight and wounded 17 at a bus terminal in the city of Rawalpindi.

The head of the country's interior ministry said it was unclear whether the bomber deliberately targeted the terminal, or if the explosives had detonated accidentally.

Also on Monday, fighters torched more than a dozen vehicles carrying supplies meant for US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, the second such assault in northwest Pakistan in two days.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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