Lawyers relaunch anti-Musharraf campaign

Hundreds of lawyers rallied and boycotted courts across Pakistan on Thursday in a renewed campaign to force President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to step down, while supporters of former premier Nawaz Sharif prepared for his promised return from exile.

Lawyers relaunch anti-Musharraf campaign
Hundreds of lawyers rallied and boycotted courts across Pakistan on Thursday in a renewed campaign to force President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to step down, while supporters of former premier Nawaz Sharif prepared for his promised return from exile.

Courts in major cities including Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Islamabad and Rawalpindi were largely deserted, witnesses said. In Lahore, about 500 lawyers wearing black armbands marched on a road chanting slogans against Musharraf. Dozens of lawyers rallied in Quetta chanting "Go Musharraf, Go!"

Lawyers have been at the forefront of a campaign against military rule in Pakistan.

Musharraf has dominated Pakistani politics since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and became a key U.S. ally after the Sept. 11 attacks. But his authority has waned since a botched attempt to fire the country's top judge in March triggered protests and widespread calls for an end to military rule.

"This is the second phase of our protest, and God willing, we will again be successful," said Mohammed Azhar, a spokesman for the Supreme Court Bar Association. The association is the top representative body of lawyers in Pakistan.

"We are organizing peaceful rallies today against the dictatorial rule of Musharraf," he said.

Despite the protests, a Supreme Court bench in Islamabad headed by the chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, heard legal challenges Thursday to Musharraf's dual role as president and army chief and his eligibility to run for another presidential term.

Musharraf is expected to seek a new five-year term from lawmakers by mid-October, but has yet to make a public commitment to resign as army chief. Many experts say that to keep his uniform — the main source of his power — beyond 2007 would violate the Constitution.

AP
Last Mod: 06 Eylül 2007, 17:53
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