Pakistan: ex-PM defies house arrest order, leads opposition march

Pakistan opposition leader and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif March 15 defied a house arrest order to lead a march by opposition activists and members of the Pakistan lawyers’ movement against President Asif Ali Zardari and his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The government had ordered Sharif and many of his supporters to remain in their homes, but Sharif said the order was illegal, and lead an estimated crowd of 10,000 in the Lahore protest calling for full reinstatement of judges ousted by Gen. Pervez Musharraf in November 2007 after his declaration of emergency rule. During the march, protesters reportedly damaged police vehicles used to block roadways in the city, and police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Several high-ranking police officials resigned from their posts in protest of the repression.

The protest was part of a “long march” to Islamabad which began March 12, and evoked last year’s demonstrations against the Musharraf regime. Late last week, Zardari party spokesmen said that he might consider a compromise deal with the movement on reinstatement and a recent Supreme Court ruling that barred Sharif from holding elected office based on a past criminal conviction. Sharif and the PML-N have particularly urged the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Chaudhry, supported by many members of Pakistan’s bar, insists he is still chief justice under the Pakistani constitution. (Jurist, March 15)

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