03/12/2009, 00.00
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Clashes and arrests in Karachi. Lawyers protest against Zardari

They are calling for the reinstatement of the former president of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, dismissed from his post in 2007 by former president Musharraf. They are joined by Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, the largest opposition party. They accuse Zardari of using justice for political purposes.

Karachi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The police have arrested hundreds of demonstrators in clashes in front of the supreme court in Karachi. Lawyers and supporters of the opposition to the government of Asif Ali Zardari met in front of the Sindh High Court to march through the streets of the city as a sign of protest against the president, and in favor of an independent judiciary in the country.

After scuffles and beatings, the police say they have arrested more than 400 people by virtue of the ban against demonstrating in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh, approved in recent days to prevent the implementation of the "Long March." The arrests were made before the crowd reached the buses that were to take them to Hyderabad, the second stage of the march scheduled to conclude on Monday the 16th, with a sit-in in front of the parliament in Islamabad.

The four-day "long march" of the Pakistani lawyers was an appeal for the reinstatement of the former president of the Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was dismissed from his post in March of 2007. Chaudhry had attacked the president at the time, Pervez Musharraf, for violating the constitution by being president and head of the armed forces at the same time. He was removed from his post because of this criticism. The case unleashed protests by lawyers, which, after spreading to the entire population, led to Musharaff's downfall.

Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party had promised that, once it was in power, it would reinstate Chaudhry and the other judges removed by the former president, but so far it has taken no initiative. Some commentators say that the president is afraid that the former head of the Supreme Court, once he is back in office, would strike down the amnesty by which Musharraf dismissed the charges against Zardari himself, who was accused of corruption and barred from holding any public office.

The lawyers have been joined by supporters of Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, the largest opposition party. The "Long March" has, in fact, coalesced the two sides, which are accusing the president of using justice for political purposes. While the lawyers are asking for the reinstatement of Chaudhry, Sharif says that Zardari has manipulated the Supreme Court for his own benefit. In recent months, the court has handed down sentences against Nawaz and his brother Shabbaz, prohibiting them from holding any public office.

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