The Pakistani lawyers whose protests helped drive President Musharraf
from office have returned to the streets and this time they are
targeting the country's newly- elected government. VOA's Barry Newhouse
reports from Islamabad the lawyers say the political parties who backed
their demands to reinstate senior judges just a few months ago have now
largely abandoned them.
Pakistan's black-suited lawyers are
widely credited with sparking the democratic movement that ended Pervez
Musharraf's nearly nine-year rule.
But after the president
resigned on August 18, the lawyers have replaced their well-known chant
of "Go, Musharraf, Go" with a slogan against the man who once
championed their cause.
"Who is responsible for betraying the judiciary? Zardari is! Zardari is!" they say.
Asif Ali Zardari is the leader of the Pakistan People's Party and likely presidential successor to Mr. Musharraf.
party's coalition government fell apart earlier this week after its
main partner, the Pakistan Muslim League - N, accused it of failing to
honor pledges to restore the judiciary.
But political leaders
of the PML-N, led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, did not join
the 7,000 lawyers who protested in major cities.
told VOA Mr. Sharif's party still supports the lawyers, but party
leaders are focusing on the presidential elections scheduled for
The lack of political support and some signs
of dissension among the deposed judges have undermined the once
formidable lawyers' movement.
Deposed lawyers return to work
On Wednesday, eight more judges
of the 60 who were deposed by President Musharraf decided to take a new
oath with the government and resume their duties. They joined about 20
others who have returned to work since last November's state of
Judges who have refused to take a new oath,
including the former Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikar Muhammad
Chaudhry, say they were never legally fired and should not have to take
an oath to resume their duties.
"We are struggling for the
rule of law," said Athar Minallah, a senior lawyer and spokesman for
the former chief justice. "And it is unfortunate that the democratic
forces that are in power today - they unfortunately are bent upon
validating the actions of Pervez Musharraf."
Violence continues in northwest
While political leaders prepare for next week's presidential elections, violence continues in Pakistan's northwest.
A bomb attack on a prison bus near Bannu killed nine police officers and two prisoners.
the military said a continuing offensive against Taliban militants in
the Bajaur tribal region killed at least 44 more fighters. The
military says more than 500 militants have been killed in recent weeks
in the battle and more than 200,000 people have fled the fighting.
Pakistani and U.S. commanders met on an American aircraft carrier in
the Indian Ocean on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing battle against al
Qaida and Taliban fighters. A Pakistani military spokesman said the
commanders discussed security issues, but he did not give details.