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Pakistan Supreme Court Suspends Inquiry Into Dismissal of Chief Justice


Pakistan's Supreme Court has suspended a judicial inquiry into allegations that the country's former chief justice abused his office. President Pervez Musharraf dismissed the top judge in March, sparking massive protests around the country. VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.

The lawyer for suspended Chief Justice Iftakhar Chaudhry briefed reporters outside the Supreme Court Monday. Aitzaz Ahsen says the Court suspended the judicial inquiry until it reviews legal challenges to the panel leading the investigation.

The five-judge panel was meant to decide whether Chaudhry was fairly dismissed on March 9.

Chaudhry has accused at least three members of the panel of being prejudiced against him and unable to conduct a balanced review.

The former chief justice also says the panel inquiry is unconstitutional, and his lawyers say Monday's decision is an important victory in the case.

The government has been struggling to contain public outrage over Chaudhry's dismissal.

The government defends the move by saying Chaudhry was only suspended after he repeatedly abused his authority while in office.

But Chaudhry's supporters say the famously independent judge was the victim of a preemptive political strike. They say he was removed ahead of a possible constitutional challenge to President Pervez Musharraf's re-election expected later this year.

Pakistani lawyers and political activists have led a series of mass protests in major cities across the country and are demanding the president either reinstate the popular justice or resign from office.

Neither side appears ready to back down, and there is still no word on when the Supreme Court will issue a final verdict in the case.