Accessibility links

Protests Increase Over Musharraf's Firing of Pakistani Chief Justice


It was another day of political upheaval in Pakistan following President Pervez Musharraf's controversial decision to remove the country's top judge from office. Neither the president nor his critics are backing down, while protests continue to swell throughout the country. From Islamabad VOA's Benjamin Sand reports on the growing political standoff.

Five days after the president removed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the protests show no sign of easing.

Lawyers are boycotting the courts, street rallies are being held in major cities throughout the country, and the president's critics have called for a nationwide strike this Friday.

Analysts here say the judge's dismissal is an unexpected gift to the country's opposition parties, who have been blasting the president for the controversial decision.

Former Senator Shafqat Mahmood says the president's action has helped unite his opponents just months before expected national elections. He says even the president's supporters are unhappy.

"I mean, he looks awful," he said. "There is almost universal condemnation, even his supporters are upset at the way he has handled this business."

President Musharraf fired Chaudry on Friday, saying he had received allegations that the country's top judge was abusing his authority. The judge is currently confined to his Islamabad home.

Mr. Musharraf had appointed Chaudry chief justice in 2005.

Chaudry's supporters insist he was targeted because of his rulings in the past year against the interests of Mr. Musharraf's government.

Last June he overturned the proposed sale of a state-owned steel plant. More recently, he requested information about more than a hundred people, ostensibly terrorism suspects, whose families say they are being held by the country's powerful intelligence agencies.

Senator Farhatullah Babar, a member of the opposition Pakistan People's Party, calls the judge's dismissal an unprecedented assault on the country's legal system.

"The government has undermined the independence of the judiciary, and with it, democracy, democratic institutions and the judiciary system of the entire country," he said.

This is not the first time President Musharraf has taken on the country's judiciary.

Less than a year after he seized power in a 1999 military coup, he fired 18 judges who refused to accept a controversial constitutional revision.

The president has promised free and fair elections later this year. But his critics say Chaudry's dismissal suggests otherwise.

XS
SM
MD
LG