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Pakistani Lawyers Prepare Cross-Country March for Ousted Judges


Thousands of lawyers gathered in the southern Pakistan city of Karachi to begin a cross-country march demanding the return of senior judges sacked by President Musharraf last November. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that at least one major political party has signed onto the march, boosting hopes that the movement will gain broader public support.

Pakistan's black-suited lawyers have become a fixture in the country's tumultuous politics, especially after President Pervez Musharraf declared emergency law last November and sacked most of the justices on the Supreme Court.

Lawyers led the protests against the action - forming the backbone of a movement that propelled opposition parties to dominate February elections.

But since then, Mr. Musharraf has remained in power, and the new government has been deadlocked over how to restore the judges. Former Pakistan Bar Association president Hamid Khan says lawyers are tired of the lack of progress and are expecting more results than the last time they took to the streets.

"This time, this movement has spread across the board to all other sections of the civil society and we are very hopeful that our movement will be successful," he said.

Leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Party have said they will join the march that will make its way to the capital this weekend.

Khan says the organizers demands are very simple, remove the president from office and restore the judges.

"We do not recognize him as president," he said. "We are asking the parliament - the government - to restore the judges as they already have promised."

The Pakistan People's Party has said it supports reinstating the judges, but has argued that doing so involves a complex set of legal issues. The lawyers movement and the PML-N have rejected that argument.

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