Pakistani judge warns of 'destruction of dictatorships'
May 6, 2007 - 5:56:36 PM

Islamabad, May 6 - Pakistan's suspended chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry fuelled opposition to the military rule of President Pervez Musharraf Sunday, telling a crowd of thousands that dictatorships will inevitably be 'destroyed'.

Having led a procession of hundreds of vehicles from the capital Islamabad to the city of Lahore, the judge took the fight against his suspension for abuse of office by the president to a new level.

'Nations and states that are based on dictatorship instead of the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law and protection of basic rights get destroyed,' he told a throng of legal workers and activists in the compound of the Lahore High Court.

'The idea of dictatorship and collective responsibility are over... and those nations which don't learn lessons from the past and repeat those mistakes, they have to pay a price,' he said.

But he refrained from naming Musharraf, who on March 9 removed him from his duties for misconduct and abuse of office.

Musharraf, an army general who is seeking re-election in November, now faces the greatest challenge to his authority since he came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

Although Chaudhry and thousands of lawyers behind him say they are fighting for the independence of the judiciary, their protests have become increasingly politicised, with opposition parties joining rallies in force in recent weeks.

At his own rally in the southern Sindh province Saturday, the president said the lawyers must stop using the 'purely constitutional and judicial matter' of Chaudhry's suspension for political gains.

Lahore is the headquarters of Pakistan's legal community and the address Sunday gives the judge's campaign an important boost.

According to opposition parties, police detained thousands of their members prior to the event in a bid to undermine its effect. Authorities in the Punjab province where Lahore is located dismissed the claims as propaganda.

Chaudhry received a hero's welcome as he passed through towns along the 270-km route to the city. Police tried to obstruct the convoy and used tear gas and batons in clashes with his supporters.

The judge is accused of using his position to secure a top police job for his son, while making excessive use of official transport. But many Pakistanis regard his suspension as retribution for his earlier decisions that went against the government.

It has also been speculated that he was sidelined to prevent any legal challenge to Musharraf's quest for re-election by the current parliament.

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