Hundreds of Pakistani lawyers have begun a protest march to the capital Islamabad, in a direct challenge to President Musharraf. They are demanding the reinstatement of judges sacked by the president last year as he tried to stem criticism of his rule.
The lawyers see the re-appointment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry as the first step towards returning Pakistan to democracy. He was fired in November as Musharraf imposed emergency rule, and Chaudry’s supporters hope his re-instatement would put more pressure on Musharraf to resign.
Musharraf has faced a series of demonstrations since he lifted emergency rule and won re-election as president. His actions have left him increasingly isolated and unpopular. His power-base was further weakened in February’s general election when his political allies were routed by pro-democracy parties.