Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Europe's Plan for Putin - Will Russian Leader Bend After New Sanctions? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Europe's Plan for Putin - Will Russian Leader Bend After New Sanctions?

Read more

FOCUS

Pakistan's Ahmadis living in fear of extremist attacks

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users show solidarity with Iraqi Christians

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Gilles Kepel, Islamic and Arab world specialist

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Argentina braced for another debt default

Read more

DEBATE

Too Late for Sanctions? Pressure Mounts on Russia over Ukraine (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Too Late for Sanctions? Pressure Mounts on Russia over Ukraine

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

'What would you do?'

Read more

  • Deadly shelling strikes Gaza UN school

    Read more

  • Dozens killed in stampede at Guinea rap concert

    Read more

  • Rats on the rampage at Louvre museum gardens

    Read more

  • US and EU slap Russia with fresh sanctions over Ukraine

    Read more

  • 'Compelling' signs Kosovo leaders trafficked organs, prosecutor says

    Read more

  • Europe launches last resupply ship to space station

    Read more

  • Graphic: Ebola spreads across West Africa

    Read more

  • Islamists seize key Benghazi army base as fuel fire rages on

    Read more

  • In pictures: ن - a sign of support for Iraq’s persecuted Christians

    Read more

  • Calls mount to ban France’s ‘violent’ Jewish Defence League

    Read more

  • Venezuela: Hugo Chavez’s ‘little bird’ strikes again

    Read more

  • France extradites suspected Jewish Museum shooter to Belgium

    Read more

  • Video: How tourism is helping Rwanda’s gorillas, ex-poachers

    Read more

  • Rare Sri Lankan leopard cubs born in French zoo

    Read more

Asia-pacific

Sharif calls off 'long march' as govt agrees to reinstate judge

Video by Carla WESTERHEIDE

Latest update : 2009-03-16

In an effort to calm the political turmoil in the country, Pakistan has agreed to restore deposed Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 21, prompting opposition leader Nawaz Sharif to call off his planned "long march" protest.

Reuters - Pakistan’s government agreed on Monday to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice to defuse a political crisis and end a street agitation threatening to turn into violent confrontation.

Chaudhry became a cause celebre after being dismissed in late 2007 by then-president and army chief General Pervez Musharraf.

“I announce the restoration of all deposed judges including Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry according to a promise made by the president of Pakistan and myself,” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said in a televised address to the nation.

Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif had thrown his support behind the anti-government lawyers’ protest campaign that had threatened to bring turmoil to nuclear-armed Pakistan as the government struggles to stem militancy and revive a flagging economy.

After the prime minister’s announcement, Sharif called off a “long march” protest making its way to the capital, Islamabad.

The political crisis gripping the Muslim nation had alarmed the United States and Britain, which fear any slide into chaos would help the Taliban and al Qaeda become stronger in Pakistan.

The United States welcomed Chaudhry’s reinstatement.

“This is a statesmanlike decision taken to defuse a serious confrontation, and the apparent removal of this long-standing national issue is a substantial step towards national reconciliation,” the U.S. embassy said.

The government is also struggling with an ailing economy that was bailed out with a $7.6 billion International Monetary Fund package in November.

Pakistan’s main stock index, hurt by political worry over the past few weeks, surged more than 5 percent at the open.

But some analysts saw Chaudhry’s comeback adding to Pakistan’s complexities.

“The reinstatement ... will further complicate politics,” said Brian Cloughley, a British defence analyst familiar with Pakistan. “Nobody knows what his allegiance is, in terms of Pakistan’s constitution.”

President Asif Ali Zardari, elected by parliament six months ago, had feared Chaudhry could wage a vendetta against Musharraf that could also threaten his own position.

Although he has a healthy majority in parliament, Zardari’s retreat on the issue will raise questions about his future, and enhance the standing of his main rival, former prime minister Sharif.

Chaudhry will be reinstated on March 21 when the incumbent retires.

Several hundred jubilant lawyers and activists gathered outside Chaudhry’s Islamabad residence, which he refused to vacate after his dismissal when Musharraf declared emergency rule in a desperate move to extend his presidency for another term.

They danced and chanted “Long live the chief justice”.

“It’s the first time in the history of Pakistan that a movement launched by the middle class has proved successful,” said retired judge Tariq Mehmud, a lawyers’ campaign leader.

INTERNATIONAL CONCERNS

Western diplomats had tried to make Zardari pull out of a collision that could have destabilised the year-old civilian coalition and forced a reluctant army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, to intervene. Kayani was involved in negotiations leading up to the decision to restore the judge.

Sharif, a two-time prime minister with a conservative, religious-nationalist support base, was overthrown by Musharraf in 1999. Since his return from exile in 2007 he has become Pakistan’s most popular politician, thanks partly to his stand on the judge.

Sharif was conciliatory, congratulating Zardari and Gilani.

“We have got the fruit of our two-year struggle,” Sharif told supporters in Gujranwala town where the protest procession stopped when news came through of the government’s decision.

Zardari, widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was elected by parliament last September after forcing Musharraf to quit the presidency.

Deeply unpopular, Zardari was further damaged when he broke a promise to Sharif last year to reappoint Chaudhry, though he brought back most other judges axed by Musharraf.

Zardari conceded over Chaudhry after Sharif and the lawyers held a day of protest in Lahore and set off for Islamabad for a sit-in outside parliament.

Authorities had put shipping containers and trucks on roads to stop the protesters from entering the capital.

Sharif latched onto Chaudhry’s cause two years ago, but the latest crisis began when Zardari ejected Sharif’s party from power in Punjab last month, after the Supreme Court barred Sharif and his younger brother Shahbaz from holding elected office.

Gilani reached out to the Sharifs in his address, saying:
“Let’s move ahead together with other political powers.”

A constitutional package that a government official said was being worked out was expected to include the lifting of central government rule in Punjab, setting the stage for the provincial assembly to elect a chief minister.
 

Date created : 2009-03-16

COMMENT(S)