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Pakistan not imposing 'unconstitutional' martial law in Chaudhry crisis: foreign minister

[JURIST] Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid M. Kasuri [official profile] has said that President Pervez Musharraf will not resort to martial law in the midst of continuing anti-government agitation by lawyers and opposition groups because it is "unconstitutional." In an interview [transcript; recorded audio] with PBS Tuesday, Kasuri reiterated Musharraf's pledge to "work within the confines of the constitution" despite protests against Musharraf's suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry [official website; JURIST news archive]. Kasuri also said President Bush continues to have full faith in the leadership of Musharraf, and that Bush believes Musharraf "is the man who's leading to a transition to civil democracy," adding that the three months of protests against the Chaudhry's suspension are a demonstration of Pakistan's commitment to free press and judicial independence. Express India has more.

On Thursday, an estimated 5,000 lawyers and opposition leaders protested Chaudhry's suspension and the United States' continued support for Musharraf in the eastern city of Lahore. The lawyers were participating in a once-a-week boycott in cities across Pakistan. The demonstrations have previously led to clashes between protesters and police [JURIST report]. Anne Woods Patterson, current nominee to serve as US ambassador to Pakistan, testified before Congress Wednesday that the State Department is confident that Musharraf's government will respect the ruling of the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website], adding that she was confident that Musharraf will not declare a state of emergency and suspend the constitution. AP has more. AFP has additional coverage.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled last week that it has jurisdiction over legal disputes involving the legality of Chaudhry's March 9 suspension [JURIST report]. The ruling, which frustrated efforts by government lawyers to dismiss the Supreme Court challenge [JURIST report], means that the high court will proceed to hear the merits of Chaudhry's petition [JURIST report].

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