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Pakistan high court rejects government petition against lawyers

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] Monday returned a government complaint against lawyers who allegedly made "humiliating" statements against the military and judiciary at a seminar that was attended by suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry [official website; JURIST news archive], saying that it was incomplete, failed to cite any legal provision to prosecute the lawyers, and was not properly filed in a form of a petition. In addition, Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar and Justice Saiyed Saeed Ashhad stepped down from the panel considering the government complaint against the lawyers.

Also Monday, the Supreme Court postponed the hearing of a petition filed by journalists for a week, although Justice Javed Iqbal reiterated the judiciary's "full support [for] the media." Media outlets have complained of growing government pressure [JURIST report] not to provide live coverage of rallies in support of Chaudhry. Pakistan Information Minister Mohammed Ali Durrani told AP that the government had only requested the media to cover news relating to Chaudhry in a "fair manner." Last Friday, several television stations said they had been told not to cover a march in support of Chaudhry, and President General Pervez Musharraf told [press release] the media last week to follow the regulations set down by Pakistan's media regulatory authority. Many Pakistani lawyers and opposition leaders believe Chaudhry's suspension to be an assault on the independence of the country's judiciary and an indirect bid by Musharraf to continue his eight-year rule in an election year. PTI has more. AFP has additional coverage.

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