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Pakistan party leader warns lawyers of possible martial law return

[JURIST] The co-chair of Pakistan's governing Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [party website] pleaded for calm Thursday with members of the nation's vocal lawyers' movement, cautioning that "hidden forces" could seize on any perceived unrest to reimpose martial law and destroy democracy in Pakistan. Speaking to members of the People's Lawyers Forum (PLF), Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile] reiterated his support for constitutional reforms to establish a fully independent judiciary and for reinstating judges ousted [JURIST reports] by President Pervez Musharraf when he declared emergency rule [JURIST report] last November, suspending the constitution in the face of what he asserted was a usurping judiciary led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. When a coalition government of parties opposed to Musharraf took power after elections earlier this year, its leaders, including Zardari, pledged to restore the judiciary [Al Jazeera report], but they have not agreed on how to do so and have already missed two self-imposed deadlines for restoration. IANS has more.

A PLF member told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper that the group would not do anything to jeopardize democracy, and has pledged to support [APP report] proposed constitutional amendments [Daily Times report; JURIST report] designed to transfer power back to the judiciary. But lawyers still plan to hold a long march protest [JURIST report] on June 10 if the judges are not reinstated. Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan [Time profile; JURIST news archive] Thursday called for Musharraf to step down [Pakistan Tribune report] before the long march or face impeachment by parliament.

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