Pakistan Police and Lawyers Clash
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
Mr. IFTIKHAR CHAUDHRY (Former Chief Justice, Pakistan): (Foreign language spoken)
MONTAGNE: And that is Pakistan's chief justice. He was fired and put under house arrest when President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency over the weekend. The chief justice had been held incommunicado. But this morning, quite unexpectedly, he somehow managed to address a crowd of lawyers in the capital by telephone relayed through a loud speaker.
I'm joined now by NPR's Philip Reeves in Islamabad.
PHILIP REEVES: Hi.
MONTAGNE: Now, before we get to what the chief justice said, tell us why it's significant that he spoke at all to this group.
REEVES: Well, you remember that the chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, dominated international headlines this year with his campaign against Musharraf after Musharraf suspended him in March. He became a figurehead and was eventually reinstated by the Supreme Court and now he's been sacked again.
Now, the lawyers in Pakistan are already emerging as the frontline in opposition to the emergency rule and in the campaign for democracy. And they came out in the streets yesterday and clashed with the police. Many of them and others who oppose Musharraf are looking to the chief justice to lead them. And this is a sign that he may be stepping out and doing so.
MONTAGNE: But it was a pretty dramatic scene again - I'm looking at a photograph here of a lawyer in a suit amid teargas. And hearing from the chief justice, what did he say to them? Did he rally the troops?
REEVES: He did, indeed. He rallied the legal community, urging them to fight to protect the judiciary and the lore of the land. But what has happened, Renee, quite suddenly, probably to stop the security services from intervening and stopping the speech, there was no media there. However, we have spoken to a lawyer who actually heard the speech. His name is Jamal Abdul Nassir(ph).
Now, he says Chaudhry talked about the fact that when Musharraf suspended the constitution, he also required all Supreme Court judges to take a new oath under a Provisional Constitutional Order. Most of the judges refused and they're now being replaced. And we asked Nassir what Chaudhry then said about the legality of the new appointments to the Supreme Court.
Mr. JAMAL ABDUL NASSIR (Lawyer): All the judges who have taken oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order is unlawful, unconstitutional, illegal and immoral. He also said the restraint order contains instructions to all the functionalists of the government. They cannot take any action under the Provisional Constitutional Order.
REEVES: So, Renee, we have a situation where the chief justice, now former chief justice in Musharraf's view of Pakistan, is declaring the new Supreme Court that Musharraf is creating to be illegal.
MONTAGNE: And what about Musharraf's chief opponent, Benazir Bhutto? She left the country just before the imposition of the state of emergency. Where is she now? And has she joined the opposition?
REEVES: Well, she is expected to come to Islamabad, here, sometime in the next 24 hours. She has been calling on Musharraf to hold elections in January, to quit his army chief. And she said he needs to do these things to defuse a volatile situation. She's also condemned the mass arrest of the last few days and the police brutality against protesters. But she has yet to unleash her party onto the streets. She may be waiting until November the 15th when Musharraf's term as president is supposed to expire and the he intends to be sworn in again as president.
MONTAGNE: There was an outcry from his allies abroad when Musharraf declared martial law. Does he have any friends left at home, back there in Pakistan?
REEVES: Not very many. I mean his arguments always been that he wants to build a secular, moderate alliance against the Islamist extremism. In fact, he's now alienated secular moderates. And the Islamists are growing stronger. By declaring a state of emergency, he's also deepened the isolation of the army, his main remaining pillar of support, pitching it an opposition to the rest of society. And the army, which is used to being considered national heroes, was already becoming unpopular under Musharraf because of its central role in government and also business.
We haven't yet seen concrete evidence the army's turning against Musharraf, but we all will be watching that relationship between Musharraf and the army very closely in the next few weeks.
MONTAGNE: Philip, thanks very much.
REEVES: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Philip Reeves speaking from Islamabad on the fourth day of the state of emergency imposed by Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf.