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Call to restore Pakistan judiciary

Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s legal community staged country-wide “black flag” demonstrations on Sunday to highlight the demand for the restoration of the superior judiciary ousted by President Pervez Musharraf.

But leaders of the legal community said they would review an earlier decision to hold a week-long protest in light of an agreement by the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) to restore the judges by means of a parliamentary resolution within a month of forming the government.

Sunday marked exactly one year after retired General Musharraf summoned then Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary and asked him to quit.

Mr. Chaudhary’s refusal was the spark that lit a country-wide protest by lawyers culminating in the reinstatement of Mr. Chaudhary by his own court in July 2007.

But three months later, fearing that the Supreme Court would rule against his eligibility as a candidate in the October presidential elections, General Musharraf moved decisively to take control of the judiciary.

He imposed Emergency rule on November 3, sacking 63 judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts in the four provinces, including Mr. Chaudhary, who remains under house arrest until date.

A handpicked Chief Justice then endorsed his election and also the Emergency and the Provisional Constitutional Order that went with it.

The PML (N) took up the issue of the reinstatement of the judges as its own, making this its election platform. An agreement between the PML(N) and PPP on Sunday says the new Parliament will pass a resolution to restore the judges.

It is believed that strengthened by an Assembly resolution, the government could pass an executive order to restore the judiciary, without recourse to a constitutional amendment and the two-thirds parliamentary support that this would require

In Lahore, Aitizaz Ahsan, the leader of the Supreme Court Bar Association and PPP stalwart, welcomed the agreement between the two parties on the judiciary.

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