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Pakistan Police and Lawyers Clash

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Pakistan Police and Lawyers Clash


Pakistan Police and Lawyers Clash

Pakistan Police and Lawyers Clash

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Pakistan's deposed chief justice calls on lawyers nationwide to defy police and protest President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule. Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, has detained hundreds of lawyers and opposition politicians since the weekend.


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.

Good morning.


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.

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Pakistani Justice Urges Defiance of Musharraf

NPR's Philip Reeves reports

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Former chief minister of Pakistan's North Western Frontier Province Pir Sabir Shah of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, center, is arrested during an anti-Musharraf demonstration in Peshawar. Tariq Mahmood/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Pakistan's deposed chief justice called on the nation's lawyers to defy President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's emergency rule as hundreds gathered to protest the government's crackdown on dissent.

"Go to every corner of Pakistan and give the message that this is the time to sacrifice," Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who is under virtual house arrest in Islamabad, told lawyers by mobile phone. "Don't be afraid. God will help us and the day will come when you'll see the constitution supreme and no dictatorship for a long time."

Later, in the central city of Multan, hundreds of police blocked about 1,000 attorneys from leaving a district court complex to stage a street rally in defiance of a ban. Both sides pelted each other with stones and officers swung batons to disperse the crowd.

Musharraf Acts to Stifle Dissent

The protests have been sporadic. Few appearing willing to challenge Musharraf's weekend order that suspended the constitution, ousted independent-minded judges, put a stranglehold on the media and granted sweeping powers to authorities to crush dissent.

Kamal Siddiqi, editor of the News International in Karachi, told NPR's The Bryant Park Project that authorities had tried to shut down his newspaper. He said reporters and editors were struggling against edicts from the government.

"We've got a written order that we cannot write anything against the president, the office of the prime minister and also things against the national interest," Siddiqi said. "These are very gray areas for us to who interprets what is national interest."

The Pakistani president has told foreign diplomats that he is determined to move forward with what he called the third stage of the country's transition.

"Once we correct these pillars — the judiciary and the Parliament — I can assure you there will be harmony," he said. "Confidence will come back into government ... and Pakistan will start moving in the same direction as we were moving."

It was not clear when parliamentary elections, which have been postponed, would be held.

President Bush on Monday issued a call for Musharraf to lift the emergency order, hold elections and leave his military post, a key issue with opposition politicians.

"We expect there to be elections as soon as possible and that the president should remove his military uniform," Bush told reporters during a joint White House news conference with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"At the same time, we want to continue working with him to fight these terrorists and extremists who have not only tried to kill him, but who have used parts of his country from which to launch attacks into Afghanistan and/or are plotting attacks on America," the president added.

A Last-Ditch Effort to Maintain Power?

Tuesday's clashes marked the second day of unrest since Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup, since he declared the emergency. Thousands of people have been jailed.

Many say Musharraf was making a last-ditch effort to cling to power, though he says his primary aim is to help fight rising Islamic extremism. The moves came ahead of a Supreme Court ruling on whether his recent re-election as president was legal. The top judge, Chaudhry, was removed and other independent-minded justices replaced.

The authoritarian measures have drawn widespread international criticism, but so far only the Netherlands has punished Pakistan, freezing most of its development aid.

The United States, Pakistan's chief foreign donor, says it is reviewing aid to Pakistan but appeared unlikely to cut assistance to a close ally in its war on terror. U.S. aid to Pakistan has totaled more than $10 billion since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested that military assistance may not be affected so as not to disrupt efforts to fight al-Qaida and other militants.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press