Former Pak Chief Justice calls on citizens to rise up against Musharraf

November 14th, 2007 - 8:35 am ICT by admin  
In a telephonic address to lawyers in Islamabad, Chaudhry criticised President General Pervez Musharraf for imposing a state of emergency and said the Constitution had been “ripped to shreds”. He added it was now “time for sacrifices”.

“I am under arrest now, but soon I will also join you in your struggle,” the BBC quoted Chaudhry, as saying.

Chaudhry was sacked and replaced after he and eight other judges refused to endorse the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), declaring it unconstitutional.

Chaudhry told around 500 lawyers on Tuesday: “The lawyers should convey my message to the people to rise up and restore the Constitution. This is a time for sacrifices.”

Chaudhry’s comments were broadcast on the internet by a private television channel.

There were reports that as he made the address by phone, the authorities blocked all mobile phone services in Islamabad.

According to the New York Times, the real test of whether the opposition to General Musharraf will prevail appears to be several days off: The leader of the biggest opposition political party, Benazir Bhutto, has pledged to lead a major protest rally on Friday in Rawalpindi, the garrison city adjacent to Islamabad, the capital.

The Musharraf government’s resolve to silence its fiercest opponents was evident in the strength of Monday’s crackdown by baton-wielding police officers who pummeled lawyers and then hauled them by the legs and arms into police wagons in Lahore.

At one point, lawyers and police officers clashed in a pitched battle, with lawyers standing on the roof of the High Court throwing stones at the police below, and the police hurling them back. Some of the lawyers were bleeding from the head, and some passed out in clouds of tear gas.

It was the second time this year that Pakistan’s lawyers emerged as the vanguard of resistance to the government. In the spring, the lawyers mounted big rallies in major cities when Musharraf tried to dismiss Chaudhry.

How long the lawyers can keep up their revolt now without the support of opposition political parties, which so far have been lying low, remains in question.

The lawyers chanted slogans such as “There will be war till the Constitution is restored” and “Chaudhry we are ready to die for you”.

Chaudhry has emerged as a symbol of resistance to Gen Musharraf’s rule, say analysts.

Benazir Bhutto echoed his calls for the Constitution to be restored in a press conference at her Karachi home on Tuesday.

“We want elections to be held on schedule. The government refrain from violence… it is the duty of the government to protect the people,” she said.

The Pakistani cabinet is expected to meet later to discuss the parliamentary elections, which are supposed to take place by January.

On Monday, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the vote would go ahead on schedule, but his deputy information minister later told the BBC the elections could be delayed by as much as a year.

Lawyers have called for three days of protests and strikes against the suspension of the Constitution. They have boycotted courts and refused to appear before the new judges.

Pakistan has come under heavy international pressure since Musharraf imposed emergency rule.

Bush urged Musharraf to quit his post as head of the army and hold elections as soon as possible.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for the release of all those detained since the state of emergency was declared.

The UK has also reiterated demands for a return to civilian rule in Pakistan.

The Netherlands became the first country to suspend aid, and the EU said its members were considering “possible further steps”.

But Musharraf said confidence in his government would soon return and insisted he still planned to give up his military post, as he had been scheduled to do this month. (ANI)

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