16
Mar
07

Pakistan police brace for anti-Musharraf rallies

Pakistani security forces braced for an Islamist-led protest here Friday amid snowballing international controversy sparked by President Pervez Musharraf’s sacking of the country’s top judge.Suspended chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry faces charges of misconduct and abuse of power brought against him by the military ruler, a move that has provoked a reaction from the president’s close ally the United States.

“It is a matter of deep concern and we believe that the resolution of this matter should take place in a way that is completely transparent and strictly in accordance with Pakistan’s laws,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

New protests were expected Friday in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, as Chaudhry was due to appear for a second time in four days before a judicial accountability council at the Supreme Court, who are ruling on the case.

The police have now banned any assembly of more than five people in a public place.

“We have called in an additional 1,000 police for deployment in the capital to maintain law and order,” to reinforce 3,000 already on duty in the city, a senior interior ministry official told AFP.

Opposition leaders allege Musharraf’s move was aimed at intimidating the judiciary before they hear key issues — including his planned re-election by the present parliament and his dual position as president and army chief — later this year.

They vowed to defy the ban.

“We will carry the holy book in our hands and assemble outside the Supreme Court building to offer Friday prayers and register our protest over action against the justice,” Shahid Shamsi, a spokesman for Pakistan’s main alliance of Islamic parties, told AFP.

He said the government would be responsible for any trouble if it tried to keep the political leaders and workers from demonstrating.

Islamic alliance president Qazi Hussain Ahhmed was to lead the congregation near the parliament.

The Pakistan Muslim League party of exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted in a coup in 1999, and the party of former cricket hero-turned-politician Imran Khan has said it will join the protest.

Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party said its leaders would decide a few hours before the planned midday protest whether to participate, though it has supported the angry legal community.

Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani said the government would not allow anyone to disrupt normal life.

“We appeal to the opposition leaders not to politicise a legal issue and refrain from creating a law and order situation. The government will not allow any one to flout law and will protect the life and property of the citizens,” he told AFP.

Musharraf spoke about the issue for the first time on Thursday, telling a public meeting in the central city of Gujranwala that he would accept whatever decision emerges from the ongoing judicial inquiry.

Musharraf added he would address the nation after the outcome of the inquiry and place all the facts before the people, saying “vested interests” were trying to exploit a purely judicial matter for political motives.

Chaudhry has denied the charges against him and questioned the constitutionality of the judicial council, as well as saying he was roughed-up by police after refusing an official car on the way to an earlier hearing.

The council was expected to decide Friday on the legal points raised by Chaudhry.

A group of English lawyers, including Prime Minister

Tony Blair‘s wife Cherie Booth, also voiced concern.

“The reports of the humiliating treatment of the chief justice of Pakistan is causing great international unease, and is not in the interest of the government of Pakistan, and lowers the international esteem of Pakistan,” the 70 lawyers said in a petition.

Source: YAHOO News

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