Pakistan’s government has caved in to popular pressure and agreed to re-instate the sacked chief justice in the hope of easing growing street tension.
Iftikhar Chaudhry was sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf. His return had been promised by now-President Asif Zardari, but had been put on hold. Chaudhry’s plight had become an opposition cause celebre, and prompted renewed anti-government riots.
“No man had the guts to stand up and say ‘No! I will not listen to a military dictator.’ He did it, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry did it, and we salute him for this,” said activist Tahira Abdullah.
“This is a great gift and, thanks to God, Pakistan has become a stronger nation,” said Chaudhry supporter Faisal Mamdo.
President Zardari’s belated decision has eased tensions in the short term, with a lawyers’ siege of parliament called off, but has emboldened his political rivals. Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif defied house-arrest to champion Chaudhry’s cause. Sharaif’s ability to rouse popular support alarmed Pakistan’s western allies, and threatened further chaos in a country already facing expressions of tribal independence and attacks from a resurgent Taliban.