THOUSANDS of Pakistani lawyers and other opponents of President Pervez Musharraf embarked on a “long march” aimed at reinstating judges sacked by the embattled US-backed leader.
Chanting “Go Musharraf, Go!”, the protesters gathered in the southern port city of Karachi and then set off to travel through several major towns on the way to a major demonstration in Islamabad on Thursday.
The rally will put pressure on both Musharraf, who at the weekend denied speculation that he was to quit, and also on the new coalition government as it struggles to agree on how to restore the judges.
“This is the ultimate push to the falling wall of the tyrant military dictator,” Rashid Razvi, president of the Sindh province High Court Bar Association, told protesters before they set off. “We are on the verge of a victory and the new dawn will come in a matter of a few days.”
Around 4,000 black-suited lawyers launched their journey with a noisy demonstration outside the mausoleum of the country’s founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi.
They were joined by supporters of ousted former premier Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N, hardline religious party Jamaat-e-Islami and the party of cricket hero-turned politician Imran Khan.
Pakistani lawyers have bitterly opposed Musharraf, who seized power in a coup nine years ago, since he tried to sack the country’s outspoken chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in March 2007.
That move sparked mass protests and the Supreme Court later overturned Chaudhry’s suspension, but Musharraf struck back in November by imposing a state of emergency and deposing the judge and other senior colleagues.
But Musharraf has since been weakened by the defeat of his allies in general elections in February and the ruling coalition is set to introduce legislation that would curb his powers.
The government has pledged to reinstate the judges sacked by Musharraf.
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