"Judge milks anti-Musharraf support in central Pakistan": Boston Globe

Judge milks anti-Musharraf support in central Pakistan
By Kamran Haider | June 24, 2007: Boston Globe

CHICHAWATNI, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan's suspended chief justice carried his fight for reinstatement and the independence of the judiciary deep into the south of Punjab province on Sunday, milking support from towns along the way.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has become a symbol of resistance to President Pervez Musharraf, since he refused to quit in the face of pressure from the country's military leader and intelligence chiefs in March.

"Chaudhry's refusal, not bow to five generals who threatened him of dire consequences is the real lifeline of this movement," Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the legal team fighting misconduct charges against the judge, told some 1,500 lawyers in Sahiwal in the city's courthouse.

Opposition party workers and ordinary people watched speeches by the judge and senior lawyers on a big screen set up outside.

A lawyers movement has spread through out the country in support of the judge, and opposition parties and the independent media have rallied to his cause, unnerving the government in a crucial election year.

U.S. ally Musharraf, who came to power in a coup almost eight years ago, is believed to be considering calling a snap election, although polls are not due until the end of the year.

Washington and other Western governments with troops fighting in neighboring Afghanistan, as well as old rival India, are closely watching the unfolding political drama in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

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