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US Welcomes Reinstatement of Pakistani Chief Justice


The United States Friday welcomed the reinstatement of Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry as evidence of the strength of Pakistan's political institutions. President Pervez Musharraf's suspension of the chief justice in March had sparked months of unrest. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Though the outcome of the case is seen as a defeat for President Musharraf, a key U.S. ally, the State Department says it reflects well on Pakistani institutions and the rule of law in that country.

The Pakistani Supreme Court Friday ruled that Mr. Musharraf's March 9th suspension of the chief justice, for alleged abuse of office and nepotism, was illegal and ordered Chaudhry reinstated. A spokesman for the Pakistani President later announced that he respects the decision of the court and it will be honored.

The nationwide protests against Mr. Musharraf, some of them violent, that followed the suspension of Chaudhry had been monitored with concern by the Bush administration which views the Pakistani leader as a bulwark against regional extremism.

At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said it "speaks positively" about the situation in Pakistan that an issue as difficult and emotional as that of Chaudhry's status can be resolved through established institutions and the rule of law, and be accepted by all the various participants:

"You had a decision rendered by the Supreme Court of the country, in accordance with laws and procedures," he said. "It was a decision that, not insignificantly, was not the position that the president [Musharraf] had taken, but that nonetheless the president and his government showed respect for that institution and for the rule of law by saying they accepted it. So I think that is a positive, and I think it's something that we view as a positive resolution of the situation."

Chaudry had issued a number of rulings against the government, including a demand for greater information about suspected Islamists the government is believed to be holding.

Critics also contend that President Musharraf removed Chaudhry in anticipation of legal challenges to his efforts to remain in his dual role as president and army chief.

The United States has said repeatedly that Mr. Musharraf should give up the military post if, as expected, he seeks another term as president.

Pakistanis elect a new parliament later this year that will in turn select a president.

Casey called President Musharraf a strong U.S. ally in the war against terrorism who is committed to a process of democratic change in Pakistan, including "free, fair and transparent" elections in October.

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