Mon, Jun 25, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Crowds across Pakistan continue to cheer Chaudhry

AFP , SAHIWAL, PAKISTAN

With drums, petals and decorated horses, thousands of people gave Pakistan's suspended chief justice a festive welcome yesterday on his latest tour mustering support for his reinstatement.

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry arrived before dawn in this highway town where many people had stayed up all night waiting to hear him speak.

He had left Lahore early Saturday on a journey of 230km to the central city of Multan to address a lawyers' convention.

En route, thousands of people have showered him with fresh rose petals and chanted slogans against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who suspended him March 9 over allegations of misconduct.

"Go Musharraf, go" they chanted to drum beats, as villagers led decorated horses and camels in a traditional welcome. Some threw currency notes.

"Supremacy of law and judiciary is inevitable for the country," Chaudhry told the crowd of around 5,000.

"The legislature and administration must remain in their own jurisdiction and avoid interference in each others' affairs," he said.

The chief justice has become a symbol of resistance to the president.

He is currently leading a convoy of more than 150 vehicles on the latest of his cross-country processions that have jolted Musharraf.

Musharraf's suspension of Chaudhry has triggered the biggest threat to the president's eight-year hold on power since he assumed control in a bloodless coup.

More than 40 people were killed in clashes between rival political factions when Chaudhry tried to address a meeting in Karachi last month.

The opposition says Chaudhry was dismissed by Musharraf to smooth the path for his election for a second five-year term, defying the constitution which does not allow the military to hold on to power.

The Supreme Court is hearing Chaudhry's appeal against his suspension. A 13-member panel is due to resume hearings today.

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