Pakistan’s Chief Justice Returns To Work

March 23rd, 2009  
Team Infidel

Topic: Pakistan’s Chief Justice Returns To Work

New York Times
March 23, 2009
Pg. 8

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, whose ouster spurred waves of protests that led to a president’s downfall, returned to work on Sunday, while Pakistan’s governing party and its main opposition resolved to cooperate, despite their own clash over his reinstatement.
Any reconciliation among the major political factions could mean relief for Western officials, who want the Pakistanis to focus on eradicating fighters from Al Qaeda and the Taliban nested along its border with Afghanistan. However, a leadership dispute in Punjab Province, the most populous in Pakistan, could still yield partisan wrangling — and more distraction.
Hundreds of lawyers and activists who pressed for Mr. Chaudhry’s reinstatement gathered outside his home on Sunday morning for a ceremonial flag-raising. They carried balloons, threw rose petals and called his return a milestone for democracy.
“It is a day of victory for the people of Pakistan,” said Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the lawyers’ movement.
President Pervez Musharraf, a former general, removed Mr. Chaudhry from the bench in 2007. Mr. Musharraf’s successor, Asif Ali Zardari, promised to reinstate the chief justice but kept stalling. Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister and leader of the nation’s second-biggest party, joined the opposition because of Mr. Zardari’s failure to reinstate Mr. Chaudhry. Mr. Sharif was further angered after a Supreme Court ruling last month barred him and his brother, Shahbaz, from holding elected office.
After the ruling, Mr. Zardari dismissed the Punjab provincial government led by Shahbaz Sharif, putting the regional governor in charge in what the Sharifs said was a blatant power grab.
The various political parties are now jockeying for position to form a new coalition to run Punjab. An alliance between Nawaz Sharif’s and Mr. Zardari’s parties — as there was in Punjab before the court decision — remains a possibility.
The government already has appealed to the Supreme Court to review the judgment against the Sharif brothers.
“We came with an olive branch and a message from President Zardari to, ‘Let’s join hands again to serve the nation,’” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said after meeting with Nawaz Sharif on Sunday.
Mr. Sharif said he had no personal enmity with President Zardari and pledged to be a supportive opposition force.
“We will cooperate as much as we can,” Mr. Sharif said.

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