Sharif party to join Pak lawyers' protests on judges

"We are not a totalitarian government. We will neither stop them nor block coverage if they march," Pakistani Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.

Sharif party to join Pak lawyers' protests on judges
Pakistani former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party will join lawyers in street protests next month to press for the restoration of judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf, a spokesman said Sunday, a move that could further strain the unraveling coalition government.

Leaders of the Pakistan lawyers' movement said Saturday they will organize a "long march" June 10 to demand that the judges be reinstated. No route has been announced.

"We not only will fully support but (will) be part and parcel of this long march," said party spokesman Sadiqul Farooq, adding that Sharif would personally participate.

Farooq said his party is not trying to destabilize the government, which is only about seven weeks old, but wants to remind it "to fulfill its commitment" to reinstate the judges.

Still, the decision to join the protests could further pressure the party's larger coalition partner, the Pakistan People's Party of Asif Ali Zardari, which has seen its popularity dented over the judges issue.

Last week, Sharif pulled his ministers from the Cabinet over the judges issue.

Then came the controversial appointment of a governor in Punjab province who is allied with Zardari's party. Officials from Sharif's party, which heads Punjab's government, have said they are concerned that the new governor might interfere with the provincial administration.

Musharraf fired dozens of independent-minded judges in November and declared a state of emergency to avoid legal challenges to his presidency.

The moves sparked widespread protests and fueled anger among lawyers _ already upset over the president's previous attempt to get rid of the chief justice.

Anti-Musharraf parties swept parliamentary elections in February and vowed to restore the judges. But the parties of Sharif and Zardari could not agree on how to do it.

Sharif's party has demanded outright reinstatement. Zardari's party has linked the judges' restoration with a broader judicial reform package.

There also are complex legal and political questions to resolve, such as what will happen to the judges Musharraf installed after the purge, and the future role of the deposed chief justice.

Officials from Zardari's party could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday, they march," Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.

But a key Zardari aide said Saturday that lawyers were free to protest.

"We are not a totalitarian government. We will neither stop them nor block coverage if they march," Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.

Agencies
Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Mayıs 2008, 16:31
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