Pakistan ready to restore sacked judges Friday?

June 12th, 2008 - 4:13 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, June 12 (IANS) Pakistan’s lawyers Thursday continued their march towards the capital as speculation intensified that the government was ready to give in to their demand and order the restoration of judges — but also keep on the existing Supreme Court judges. “They (lawyers) are probably coming to Islamabad for picnic - they will have lunch and go back,” commented ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Farzana Raja.

Though she refused to set a date for the reinstatement of the judges, sacked by President Pervez Musharraf last year, the buzz is that it will happen Friday morning. It is also likely that the deposed judges will have to work together with the present judges.

Setting the stage for events ahead, Finance Minister Naveed Qamar said in his budget speech Wednesday: “I propose to increase the number of Supreme Court judges from 16 to 29.”

Surprising many people, including PPP legislators, the statement was an indication of the government’s intention - the number of sacked judges of the Supreme Court is 13, including former chief justice Iftikhar Choudhry, while 16 judges are working presently.

“Now the judges will be restored and the present judges will also continue to work,” a PPP legislator said requesting anonymity.

The PPP leader said this implied that the former and the present judges will work together, against the demands of the lawyers and ruling coalition member Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who want restoration of the sacked judges and removal of the present judges who took oath under the provisional constitutional order (PCO).

On Nov 3 last year, Musharraf sacked more than 60 judges of the superior courts and appointed new ones who took oath under the PCO.

In a speech last week, Justice Chaudhry had said that those who violated the Supreme Court order would be punished, hinting that the PCO judges would be removed once he was restored.

The lawyers started their four-day march - dubbed the ‘Long March’ - Monday from Karachi and Quetta with hundreds of people riding vehicles and chanting slogans ‘Go Musharraf, go!’ and ‘Struggle will continue until restoration of judges’. The protesters are expected to reach Islamabad Friday.

Braving the scorching temperatures, hundreds of lawyers sweating in their black coats reached Lahore Wednesday to a warm welcome from colleagues, students and other members of civil society.

They are determined to march on to the capital and stage a sit-in in front of the presidency and adjoining parliament until the sacked judges are restored.

The Punjab government has provided official protocol and full security to the deposed chief justice and the participants of the Long March.

PML-N chief and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif-has also asked PPP chief Asif Zardari to act fast on the judges’ issue in the interest of the coalition.

He told reporters in Lahore: “Pakistan is in danger today… I invite every child of the country to take part in this peaceful long march.”

Asked if the PML-N would quit the ruling coalition and sit in the opposition if the judges were not reinstated, Sharif said that at this stage he could not say anything about it.

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