Pakistan's deposed top judge calls for 'sacrifice' from lawyers
Former chief justice's rallying cry comes amid second day of clashes
Pakistan's deposed chief justice has called on lawyers across the country to defy a crackdown on rallies and continue protesting against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's proclamation of emergency rule.
"Go to every corner of Pakistan and give the message that this is the time to sacrifice," Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who says he is under virtual house arrest in Islamabad, told lawyers by cellphone.
"Don't be afraid. God will help us and the day will come when you'll see the Constitution supreme and no dictatorship for a long time."
Chaudhry's comments came Tuesdayas protesters clashed with police for the second day in a row since Musharraf declared a state of emergency rule and suspended the constitution on Saturday. Since then, he's ousted judges including Chaudhry, silenced the media and forbidden protests.
In the central city of Multan, hundreds of baton-wielding police blocked about 1,000 lawyers from leaving a district court complex to stage a rally. The two sides pelted each other with stones.
Police swung batons to disperse the crowd, wounding at least three lawyers. Three police officers were also hurt by bricks flung by lawyers, the Associated Press reported.
At least three lawyers were arrested there and six more arrested in a separate clash in the city's high court, adding to the hundreds already behind bars.
"This is the worst example of state oppression. We wanted to stage a peaceful protest but police entered the High Court premises, brutalized peaceful lawyers and arrested them," said Habibullah Shakir, president of Multan's High Court Bar Association. "Lawyers will continue their struggle for the restoration of the constitution until their death."
'It's been a madhouse all over'
Musharraf said the primary aim for the emergency rule was to allow him to tackle Islamic extremism, but critics see it as a last-ditch effort to cling to power and accuse him of using the powers to quell dissent rather than fight extremism.
Hismove came ahead of a Supreme Court ruling on whether his October re-election was legal. Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup and is also the head of the army.
Opposition groups say about 3,500 people have been arrested, though government officials put the figure at more than 2,500. Many detainees are lawyers, although some are also opposition party supporters and human rights activists.
The brother of exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif alleged authorities have assaultedSharif's detained supporters.
"They have been beaten up brutally, and many have been seriously injured," Shahbaz Sharif told CBC Newson Tuesday in an interview from London. "It's been a madhouse all over."
Hundredsof the people thrown in jail are members of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Bhutto recently returned to the country following eight years of self-imposed exile to hold talks on forging an alliance with Musharraf to fight extremism.
She flew into Islamabad on Tuesday, but said she has no plans to meet again with Musharraf. Instead, she said she'll talk with other opposition parties about how to revive the constitution and get Musharraf to step down as army chief.
International criticism grows
Pakistan has come under mounting international criticism for its authoritarian actions.A number of countries, including Canada, have condemned Musharraf's actions.
So far, however, only the Netherlands has frozen development aid to Pakistan.
Pakistan's chief donor, the U.S., said it was reviewing aid, but senior officials said it is unlikely assistance would be cut to the close ally in the so-calledwar on terror so as not to disruptcounterterrorism efforts. Pakistan has received about $11 billion from the U.S. since 2001.
U.S. President George W. Bush urged Musharraf to resign as army chief and hold parliamentary elections in January as originally planned.
Musharraf has said he will restore democracy and proceed with elections as planned, however, there didn't appear to be a unified position among senior Pakistani government officials about when they should be held.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said he would chair a cabinet meeting later Tuesday to try to hammer out the date.
"But it will take some time," said Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, a cabinet member who is close to Musharraf. He said the president wanted to go ahead with the polls as planned, but "some elements want them to be delayed for a year."
Musharraf told foreign ambassadors Monday that he still intends to resign from the military.