Monday, March 31, 2008

Freed top Pakistani judge wants job back

USA TODAY, March 31, 2008

By Matthew Pennington, Associated Press Writer

QUETTA, Pakistan — A week after his release from house arrest, Pakistan's deposed chief justice is launching a drive to win back his old job, in what could be a further political blow to embattled President Pervez Musharraf.

Hundreds of black-suited lawyers planned a hero's welcome in Quetta on Monday for Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry as he makes the first in a series of trips across Pakistan to crank up support for the reinstatement of judges purged by the U.S.-backed president.

"By staging a marvelous welcome we want to send a message to the dictator, that the chief justice is the most popular person in Pakistan, wholeheartedly supported by the masses," said Ali Ahmed Kurd, a veteran lawyers' leader and Chaudhry supporter. "The judiciary must be restored."

Musharraf replaced senior judges with appointees loyal to him when he declared emergency rule in November. His actions stirred popular resentment of military rule and spurred a political sea change in Pakistan more than eight years after the president took power in a military coup.

Musharraf could lose his already weakening hold on the presidency if the old judiciary returns because the Supreme Court could reconsider the legality of his contested re-election as head of state last year. Opposition parties swept Feb. 18 parliamentary elections and now lead a civilian administration.

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