STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Next we turn to Pakistan, where the chief justice finally returned to his seat at the supreme court yesterday. To understand the significance of that, it helps to review some recent history, and Renee, let's do that. A couple of years ago, I guess it was, President Pervez Musharraf ousted that judge, precipitating a crisis that eventually led to Musharraf's own downfall.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And that crisis deepened when Musharraf's replacement, Asif Ali Zardari, broke a promise to restore the judge. And the judge's name is Iftikhar Chaudhry. President Zardari has been forced to relent, and today Chaudhry's supporters are celebrating.

INSKEEP: Now, this morning we'd like you to meet one of those supporters. Roedad Khan was once a very senior government civil servant in Pakistan. He served under both civil and military leaders. He knew six presidents personally. When President Musharraf sacked the chief justice, and later dozens of other judges, Mr. Khan became a street activist. He went to protest after protest in Islamabad.

MONTAGNE: Today in his own words, Khan reflects on the battle to restore the chief justice to the bench. There's one more thing: Khan is 85 years old.

(Soundbite of protest)

Mr. ROEDAD KHAN (Activist): Every morning after breakfast, I used to get into my car and go all over Islamabad looking for demonstrations. I didn't want to miss any.

(Soundbite of protest)

Mr. KHAN: I was looking for people who thought like me, felt like me, and I felt some kindred souls, you see. And I felt very happy in their company.

No civil servant has ever behaved so recklessly as I had. I had never played this role before. I mean I've played - I had lived a very sheltered life, you know, surrounded by police, surrounded by security people, surrounded by this (unintelligible) and suddenly now I find myself on the wrong side of the barricade, you know, and facing the police.

(Soundbite of protest)

Unidentified Man: The police now throwing rocks at the crowd. And now the police are charging the crowd, although the crowd is more like dispersed.

Mr. KHAN: I was hit by a rock and then of course I was engulfed in that teargas.

(Soundbite of protest)

Mr. KHAN: I found it very reinvigorating. You've become part of the crowd, that little knot of protesters, you see; you become a part of that, and you'll suffer with them, you see. You'll - they're subjected to teargas, so are you, you know. They are inhaling teargas, so are you. I used to feel very happy in the company of such people, these are real people. Without a strong independent judiciary there can be no rule of law. There can be no justice between man and man. There can be no justice between man and the government, because it is the supreme court which is the guardian of the constitution.

MONTAGNE: It took more than one and a half years of protests and political chaos across the country to bring the chief justice back to his office. He finally won the battle when the government was forced to announce his reinstatement.

Mr. KHAN: And then I met the chief justice. He embraced me and I said, Well, it's been a long struggle, you know, but we have finally won. And there was ecstasy, ecstasy all around us, everybody was ecstatic, you see. It was a day, you know, that really should not have ended. And I thought of Wordsworth, what he said, you know: Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.

(Soundbite of chanting)

Mr. KHAN: We have only won the first round, but the fight is not over yet, you see. There are people who are against the rule of law. There are people who are against an independent judiciary. We have to fight these people. So we have to be very vigilant, you know.

Eighty-five years. My knees have not created any problems, and I walk regularly in the morning.

(Soundbite of protest)

Mr. KHAN: You know, it's amazing. Sometimes if you are passionately involved in a good cause, in a just cause, then you draw upon your inner reserves, you see, of strength, energy. You are energized, you are energized. I feel energized.

INSKEEP: That was Roedad Khan. He was once a very senior official in Pakistan. In his mid-80s he became a full-time street protester in an effort to force the government to establish an independent judiciary.

MONTAGNE: And that report was produced by Philip Reeves and Junaid Khan.

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