Ruling party criticizes Musharraf over judge's suspension
May 16, 2007 - 8:34:38 PM

Islamabad, May 16 - Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was under pressure from within his government and the ruling party to end the case against suspended chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, a minister said Wednesday.

Chaudhry's suspension on March 9 has led to a backlash of protest and bloodshed.

'I told the president that the case against the chief justice was a conspiracy that was hatched against him by some of his aides,' Federal Minister for Local bodies and Rural Development, Abdul Razaq Taheem, told the Geo television channel.

The discussion with Musharraf took place Tuesday evening during a meeting with parliament members from the Pakistan Muslim League -, which was set up to give the military regime a political face after it came to power in a coup in 1999.

Taheem also suggested to the president that the government had mishandled the political repercussions of Chaudhry's removal, he said.

The opinion was echoed by PML-Q parliament member Riaz Fatiana, who also urged at the meeting that Musharraf curtail proceedings against the judge.

'My position was that the case against the chief justice should be reviewed without making it a matter of ego,' Fatiana told Geo.

Musharraf did not appreciate the suggestion and insisted that the decision to refer Chaudhry to a Supreme Court panel over alleged misconduct had been taken after careful deliberation, Fatiana added.

The president recently stressed that he only took 'legal and constitutional action' against the judge once he was convinced about the validity of the charges forwarded by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Many Pakistanis see Chaudhry's suspension as retribution against the independent-minded judge for earlier rulings he made against the government.

Thousands of lawyers and opposition supporters staged repeated demonstrations over his removal in recent weeks in a major test of Musharraf's authority.

The growing political movement turned violent last weekend as pro-government activists clashed with opposition workers in the southern city of Karachi, leaving more than 40 people dead.

Both sides blamed the other for the disturbances, which saw the use of firearms for the first time since the confrontation began.

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