Pakistan Protesters Decry Judge's Removal

Pakistanis angry over President Pervez Musharraf's suspension of the country's chief justice hold their largest demonstration yet.

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It's been more than a month since Pakistan's military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, suspended the country's top judge, yet the outcry is not dying down. Today, Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, saw the largest protest demonstration so far.

NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

(Soundbite of crowd noise)

PHILIP REEVES: They gathered outside the Supreme Court gates - a noisy, angry, flag-waving throng that's now convinced it has Musharraf on the ropes.

(Soundbite of crowd noise)

Unidentified Group: Go, Musharraf, go. Go, Musharraf, go.

REEVES: The security service is prepared by flooding the streets in large numbers, sealing off routes into the capital and erecting checkpoints. Yet several thousand people turned out over Musharraf's move to get rid of the chief justice - have, until now, been led by Pakistan's lawyers who see it as an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

Today, the lawyers were outnumbered by groups from almost all the main political parties, eager to turn this into a campaign to end military rule and restore democracy.

Among the crowd was Imran Khan, a celebrated cricketer turned politician. Khan says Musharraf now has no choice but to reinstate the chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, and then stand down himself.

Mr. IMRAN KHAN (Member, Pakistan Parliament): He should resign and bring in a caretaker government and hold free and fair elections. Anything else will just cause the situation to deteriorate by the day.

REEVES: Today's protests passed off peacefully, but there's no sign this affair is dying away.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad.

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