Lawyers call for Musharraf to quit

Protests in Pakistan continue over dismissal of judge as corruption charges emerge.

    The dismissal of Pakistan's chief judge on March 9 has led to daily protests [AFP]

    His lawyers said the allegations were "baseless".
    National crisis


    Musharraf, a military ruler, has faced the biggest crisis of his eight years in power since ordering the suspension on March 9.



    Your Views

    "The Pakistan government's promise not to intervene is little little more than hot air"

    Jim H, USA

    Send us your views

    The move to sack Chaudhry, who has a reputation as an independent-minded supreme court chief, has led to suspicions Musharraf may have feared the judge would block any attempt by the president to retain the office of army chief, which he is due to give up this year.


    The suspension led to a series of violent protests, with police firing tear gas at demonstrators in Islamabad on Friday and Lahore on Saturday.


    Pakistan's legal establishment has led the opposition to the president's action. Eight judges and a deputy attorney general have quit over the row while lawyers have been staging strikes and rallies almost daily.


    On Wednesday, carrying black banners and chanting "Go Musharraf, go", the black-suited lawyers in the eastern city of Lahore removed barricades the police had erected on a busy road to block the march, witnesses said.


    Police withdrew the cordon as the massive crowd, joined by leaders and workers from opposition parties, came out of the high court building.


    The lawyers planned to stage a sit-in outside the provincial assembly building to press their demand for Chaudhry's reinstatement.


    Activists held


    Several dozen Pakistani opposition activists were detained hours ahead of the protests.


    Lahore police said they rounded up at least 45 activists of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's party on Tuesday night.


    Separately in Islamabad, some 300 protesters broke through two police cordons and headed towards parliament, an AFP reporter said.


    About 100 lawyers tried to march in the southwestern city of Quetta. Police fired a teargas shell at them, a witness said.


    The suspended chief justice had been due to appear before Pakistan's Supreme Judicial Council on Wednesday for the third closed-door hearing into the charges, but the hearing was postponed on Tuesday until April 3.


    List of charges


    The misconduct allegations handed in to Pakistan's Supreme Judicial Council says Chaudhry "committed misconduct by employing his position to gain undue advantage for Dr Arsalan Iftikhar," his son.


    Paramilitary troops were deployed on
    Wednesday ahead of protests [Reuters]

    The list said: "He unlawfully used his position as a judge and chief justice of the supreme court of Pakistan to influence, harass and intimidate all concerned and compelled them to act in an unlawful manner."


    His son was promoted rapidly through three different departments without meeting qualifications, the charges say.


    The charges also claim that Chaudhry had the use of seven official cars when he was only meant to have one, that he ordered traffic to be stopped for his convoy and that he demanded the use of aircraft assigned to senior government officials.


    Aitzaz Ahsan, Chaudhry's chief lawyer, said: "This charge-sheet is childish, in fact these are not charges. There is not a single charge on financial corruption against the chief justice."


    Munir Malik, another of Chaudhry's lawyers, said: "It is because of the baseless nature of allegations that the chief justice wants an open hearing into the presidential reference."


    Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup, said in a television interview on Monday that his action to suspend the judge was constitutional and that he would not impose a state of emergency over the row.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Many Pentecostal churches in the Niger Delta offer to deliver people from witchcraft and possession - albeit for a fee.

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    Prince Philip has done the world an extraordinary service by exposing the racist hypocrisy of "Western civilisation".

    Why a hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable

    Why a hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable

    Improving eco-efficiency within a capitalist growth-oriented system will not save the environment.