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Pakistan president appoints acting chief justice as suspension protests continue

[JURIST] Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official website] appointed the senior-most judge on the Pakistani Supreme Court [official website] as acting chief justice Friday, as thousands of lawyers across the country protested the suspension of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry [official profile; JURIST news archive] and campaigned for his reinstatement. Justice Rana Bhagwandas [Wikipedia profile], the only Hindu judge on the court, will take on the duties of Chaudhry, who was removed earlier this month for originally-unspecified "misconduct" [JURIST report], later reported to include allegations that Chaudhry misused his influence to get his son jobs and promotions [JURIST report]. Several judges, as well as one of Pakistan's three deputy attorney generals [JURIST reports] resigned last week in protest over the suspension, claiming that it was politically motivated and an attack on the independence of the judiciary. The suspended chief justice was expected to reject any attempt by Musharraf to retain control of Pakistan's army, which he is supposed to relinquish this year.

Musharraf has maintained that the suspension is a legal issue, and has asked that the proceedings against Chaudhry be allowed to run their course. Chaudhry wants the closed door proceedings open to the public, so that he can openly prove his innocence. Other parties, including Islamic hardliners opposed to Musharraf's alliance with the United States, have joined in the protests, which have included a boycott of courts, and occasional clashes with police [JURIST reports]. AFP has more. AP has additional coverage. Reuters also has additional coverage.

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