03/16/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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The government reinstalls Iftikhar Chaudhry, the opposition calls off the “long march”

by Qaiser Felix
The spread of chaos is avoided. Lawyers and opposition members celebrate. All those arrested over recent days are freed. Nawaz Sharif: Now we will implement real democracy.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Prime Minister Raza Gilani announced the return of Iftikhar Chaudhry as Supreme Court judge this morning.  Together with other judges he was removed by ex President con November 3rd 2007. Nawaz Sharif, leader of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), immediately called of protests in program, including the so-called “long march” of the lawyers in cities across the country, thus putting an end for now to tensions and clashes with security forces that risked plunging Pakistan into chaos.

Gilani clarified that Chaudhry will take up the post of Supreme Court judge again on March 21st when the current judge, Abdul Hameed Dogar steps down.  The Prime Minister also announced that the government will present a petition to the Supreme Court to revoke the decision to ban Sharif and his brother Shabbaz from becoming involved in public life.

Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Buttho and Pakistani President of 6 months, had promised to reinstall Chaudhry during his electoral campaign, but had delayed on the decision, fearing retaliation against Musharraf and himself, accused of corruption and then released thanks to   Musharraf’s intervention.

This delay fomented opposition to the government, above all among lawyers and judges who united with Nawaz Sharif and his party. In recent days clashes with police in Punjab and Sindh, resulted in over 400 arrests.  The government had imposed a ban on protests to avoid that the demonstrations reached Hyderabad and Islamabad.

Premier Gilani has ordered the lifting of the ban and the release of all those arrested in relation to the “long march”.

Speaking from a car filled with roses, Nawaz Sharif declared that from now on “we'll implement true democracy in Pakistan. We'll make the judiciary stronger and parliament supreme … Now the destiny of this country will change”.

In 62 years since independence Pakistan has been ruled by a series of military dictatorships.  The two families, Buttho and Sharif, for decades have been fighting and accusing each other. In 2006 they had signed a document promising to restore democracy in Pakistan, avoid further clashes and abolish the military government.

On hearing the news of Chaudhry’s return many opposition supporters and members of civil society gathered around his house in celebration.  Police have begun to remove containers, tanks and other obstacles from the streets put in place to stop the long march towards Islamabad.

 

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