Lawyers take to streets
Lawyers and others have confronted riot cops and the army on the streets of
But outrage has built up quickly over what some consider a blatant ploy to get rid of a judge whose rulings had embarrassed the government, and to ensure a quiescent judiciary ahead of elections later this year. There is speculation that the Supreme Court, under Chaudhry, might not look favorably on an attempt by Musharraf to seek reelection while hanging on to his post as army chief.
Chaudhry also had angered
Although Pakistani leaders have a history of using the judiciary for their own ends, the move to oust Chaudhry prompted lawyers and other activists to take to the streets, here in the capital and in other cities such as
Analysts say the strength of public opposition to Chaudhry's removal has caught Musharraf by surprise.
On Friday, news media broadcast scenes of police violently dispersing the protesters assembled at the Supreme Court in downtown
A Supreme Court panel ordered that restrictions on Chaudhry's movements be lifted. The court also acknowledged his complaint of being manhandled by police and ordered the officers to explain their actions.
"General Musharraf and his legal advisors should have realized that a judge who believed that public interest and public welfare could only be gauged and served through representative institutions would be a serious threat to his version of democracy," columnist Khalid Jawed Khan wrote in a scathing opinion piece in Friday's edition of the Dawn newspaper. "The general has never been so vulnerable."
The Washington Post reports, further,
The protests were broadcast live on the independent television station Geo TV, and riot police stormed the station's
Musharraf later apologized in a live interview with Geo.
"It was a very sad incident. It should have not happened, and I condemn it," he said, adding, "The culprits responsible for it must be identified, and action against them must be taken."
It remains to be seen whether the General will arrange for his own arrest.
Witnesses at the scene said that police used tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges in an attempt to disperse the crowd and that they arrested numerous opposition leaders. Dozens of opposition members, as well as lawyers from across the country, had also been detained overnight in advance of the rally.
Among those arrested were Qazi Hussain Ahmad, a leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which is a coalition of far-right Islamic parties, and Rafiq Tarar, a former president of
Information Minister Tariq Azim Khan defended the arrests, saying that demonstrators were blocking traffic and clashing with police.
"We have to ensure that nobody is above the law," he said. "It doesn't matter if they're political leaders. Anybody who takes the law into their own hands, they have to face the consequences."
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