Lahore crowds mob suspended judge

Gathering in Lahore for Iftikhar Chaudhry called "unprecedented" in nation's history.

    Chaudhry received a hero's welcome when he arrived in Lahore to address lawyers on Sunday [Reuters]


    Huge crowds, waving flags of opposition groups and chanting anti-Musharraf slogans, took to the streets of Lahore to mark his arrival.
     
    The city is considered Pakistan's political nerve centre and Chaudhry's reception there is seen as a test of his backing.
     
    His suspension on March 9 plunged the country into a judicial crisis.
     
    His refusal to resign in the face of charges of misconduct, coupled with the widespread sympathy for his stand, poses a serious challenge to Musharraf's authority.

    Reputation
     
    Chaudhry, 58, who became chief justice in 2005, has a reputation for challenging government misdeeds and human-rights abuses in the country.
     
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    Analysts say Musharraf's main motive in seeking his removal was to have a more pliable man in place in case of a constitutional challenge to his plans.
     
    Musharraf is due to seek re-election in September or October.
     
    Controversially, he wants to be re-elected by the national and provincial assemblies before they are dissolved for elections expected to be held at the end of the year.
     
    On Sunday, Chaudhry said: "The idea of dictatorship and collective responsibility are over.
     
    "They are chapters from the past and those nations which don't learn lessons from the past and repeat those mistakes, they have to pay a price.
     
    "Basic human rights are a backbone in the formation of a civilised society."
     
    Attack on judiciary
     
    Pakistan's legal community and opposition see Chaudhry's removal as an attack on the independence of the judiciary.
     
    He has already taken his case to Sindh and to North West Frontier Province.
     

    Supporters of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party
    have been participating in the pro-judge protests [AFP]

    Earlier on Sunday, the cry of "Go, Musharraf go" rang out as Chaudhry entered Lahore at the head of a caravan carrying supporters and media, more than 20 hours after setting out from the nation's capital, Islamabad.
     
    Well-wishers clambered over his 4WD car, a familiar sight throughout the judge's journey from Islamabad.
     
    People lined the streets and peered from flyovers to glimpse the man who has become a symbol of resistance.
     
    The size of the procession swelled as it approached Lahore.
     
    Ahsan Bhoon, president of the High Court Bar Association in Lahore, said: "It [is] a historic event, its unprecedented.
     
    "Neither a political nor any judicial scene has ever witnessed such an event in Pakistan's history."
     
    On Saturday, Musharraf, speaking at a rally in Sindh province, accused lawyers of politicising a judicial matter by holding protests.
     
    He said: "I warn the lawyers that they will not succeed in their designs... I ask the lawyers to shun politics."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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