Pakistan lawyers to resume protests

Government failure to restore sacked judges prompts lawyers to plan new agitation.

     Ministers belonging to Sharif's party resigned
    from the cabinet [AFP] 

    A new coalition government comprising Musharraf opponents took office six weeks ago and promised to reinstate the justices, casting doubt on Musharraf's political survival.
     
    However, the government has missed two self-imposed deadlines to do so.
     
    Ali Ahmad Kurd, a senior lawyer, said: "We have decided in principal to intensify our ongoing movement."
     
    "We just want the judges back in their offices", he said before the meeting.
     
    "We are working for the supremacy of the law and the constitution."
     
    Cabinet withdrawal
     
    Any protests could have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan's political stability, as the government faces mounting economic problems as well international pressure to tackle terrorism.
     
    Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the biggest coalition party in government, says he wants to restore the judges.
     
    However, the PPP and Nawaz Sharif's party, its coalition ally, have failed to agree on how to reinstate the judges.
     
    Sharif, a former prime minister, this week pulled his ministers from the cabinet as a protest over the delay and said his party would support any lawyers' protests.
     
    However, he vowed to support the government from the outside.
     
    Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, the assassinated former prime minister, wants to retain judges installed by Musharraf after the November purge.
     
    Differing allies
     
    After the judges are restored Zardari wants to introduce changes to the law which are expected to remove some of their power.
     
    The PPP says time-consuming legislation is required to prevent legal challenges that could cause institutional chaos.
     
    But Sharif says that because the removal of the judges was illegal, they
    can be restored with a simple order from the prime minister - a view shared by many prominent lawyers.
     
    Zardari says he can still persuade Sharif to return to the government.
     
    However, his reluctance over the issue has suggested that he is preparing to realign himself with the president if the coalition collapses.
     
    Lawyers took to the streets in March last year, when Musharraf first tried to fire Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the chief justice of the supreme court.
     
    The protests prompted calls for an end to Musharraf’s rule.
     
    Musharraf, who had seized power in a 1999 military coup, removed the judges when they were considering the legality of his re-election to another five-year presidential term.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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