Fri, Nov 23, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Attempt to visit former justice shows house arrest still in place

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , ISLAMABAD

One of Pakistan's most distinguished jurists and a dissident lawyer approached a police cordon on Wednesday in a residential quarter here to demonstrate that the government's claims it had lifted house arrest on a former justice were not true.

The government had broadcast news that the dismissed chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, under house arrest since de facto martial law was declared more than two weeks ago, was now free to move around.

So Wajihuddin Ahmed, a former Supreme Court justice, and lawyer Athar Minallah, accompanied by a large group of the legal fraternity, turned up at noon where Chaudhry lives. Confronted by a line of police officers and a curtain of barbed wire, they asked to see him.

They were turned away, proving, they said, that Chaudhry and other dismissed Supreme Court justices who live in the same area were still captive.

Minutes later, as the pair drove down Constitution Avenue, the broad boulevard of the capital, five men in civilian clothes stopped their car and pulled Minallah out.

In short order Minallah, a member of the Cabinet of General Pervez Musharraf in the early years of his presidency but now an energetic organizer of lawyers' protests, was arrested.

"I asked them to produce an order for arrest," said Ahmed, describing the scene with the plainclothes officers. "They didn't produce any order. I said this is not proper. But Athar said: `If they want to take me, let them take me.'"

Minallah was pushed into a police van and hauled off.

Ahmed, considered one of the most principled of Pakistan's judges, refused to take the oath of office on the Supreme Court after sharraf grabbed power in 1999.

As part of his challenge to Musharraf, Ahmed filed a petition in the Supreme Court asserting that the general's re-election as president early last month was illegal.

The petition was rejected on Monday by the Supreme Court, which has been packed with Musharraf loyalists since the Nov. 3 emergency decree.

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