In a telephone address to lawyers in Pakistan’s capital, the ousted chief justice of the Supreme Court urged the lawyers today to continue to defy the state of emergency imposed by the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. In the second day of protests, police arrested 50 lawyers in the eastern city of Lahore and clashes broke out between hundreds of lawyers and Pakistani police in Multan.
“The lawyers should convey my message to the people to rise up and restore the constitution,” the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, told dozens of lawyers before his cellular phone line was cut. “I am under arrest now, but soon I will also join you in your struggle.”
It was unclear how Chief Justice Chaudhry, who is under house arrest, was able to gain access to a telephone. He and other lawyers said they hoped to recreate the protest campaign they carried out this spring when the lawyers mounted big rallies in major cities after General Musharraf removed Chief Justice Chaudhry from the Supreme Court bench. He was reinstated after four months, and then fired again on Saturday.
But government officials showed no signs of yielding to the protesters today. The government ignored the request by President Bush on Monday that General Musharraf immediately end the country’s state of emergency that was imposed on Saturday and prepare for elections as planned in January.
Citing a need to limit terrorist attacks and ”preserve the democratic transition”, General Musharraf imposed emergency rule on Saturday night, suspending the Constitution, dissolving the Supreme Court and the four provincial High Courts, and silencing privately-owned television news channels.
In all, by late Monday, about 2,000 people had been rounded up by the authorities, lawyers and legal and political analysts said.
General Musharraf’s move also threw into doubt the nationwide elections that had been scheduled for January.
After saying on Monday that elections would be held in January, aides to General Musharraf gave conflicting signals today about the election timetable.
“It will take some time,” said Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, a Cabinet member who is close to General Musharraf, the Associated Press reported.