Lawyers call for Musharraf to quit

More than 3,000 lawyers have called on Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, to step down amid fresh protests in Lahore over his removal of Pakistan's chief justice.

Lawyers call for Musharraf to quit

More than 3,000 lawyers have called on Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan'spresident, to step down amid fresh protests in Lahoreover his removal of Pakistan'schief justice.

The judge was suspended after allegedly overseeing aseries of promotions for his son, according to a list of charges filed byMusharraf and published in newspapers on Wednesday.



The allegations said Iftikhar Chaudhry also assembled afleet of cars and demanded the use of planes that he was not entitled to.

It is the first time the charges against Chaudhry have beendetailed. State media had previously only said that he was charged withmisconduct and abuse of office.



His lawyers said the allegations were "baseless".

National crisis

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

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

The suspension led to a series of violentprotests, with police firing tear gas at demonstrators in Islamabadon Friday and Lahoreon Saturday.

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

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

Police withdrew the cordon as the massive crowd, joined byleaders and workers from opposition parties, came out of the high courtbuilding.

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

Activists held

Several dozen Pakistani opposition activists were detainedhours ahead of the protests.

Lahorepolice said they rounded up at least 45 activists of former prime ministerBenazir Bhutto's party on Tuesday night.

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

About 100 lawyers tried to march in the southwestern city ofQuetta. Policefired a teargas shell at them, a witness said.

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

List of charges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16