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Pakistan Government Agrees to Supreme Court Taking On Judicial Case

The Pakistan government reversed itself Thursday in the controversial case against the nation's chief justice, saying it now has no objections if the Supreme Court hears the charges against him.

The government had previously wanted the allegations of misconduct against Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry -- suspended by military ruler Pervez Musharraf -- to be heard by a special judicial panel.

But Chaudhry argued the panel was biased and appealed to the Supreme Court.

During Thursday's hearing on the petition, a government lawyer said he had been instructed by the highest authority to allow the top court to take over the case.

The court has not yet made a decision.

But the presiding judge warned the government that by allowing the Supreme Court to hear the case against the suspended chief justice, the proceedings would have to start over. He said that meant Chaudhry's suspension would be nullified.

The move by General Musharraf to pull the chief justice from the bench has sparked the most serious challenge to his rule. Anti-government protests have been held in cities across Pakistan over the past several months.

Critics say the president was trying to remove a justice who might have upheld objections to his retaining the dual posts of president and army chief.

The president has said the case against Chaudhry is not motivated by politics.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.