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Pakistan lawyers reach parliament, hold mass protest

[JURIST] A protest march by members of the Pakistani lawyers' movement [NYT backgrounder] reached the Parliament House in the capital Islamabad on Friday night, JURIST's correspondent in Pakistan reports. The so-called "long march" began [JURIST report] in Lahore Monday, and is aimed at pressuring the government of President Pervez Musharraf into reinstating judges ousted after the declaration of emergency law [text, PDF; JURIST report] in November 2007, including Pakistan Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry [JURIST news archive]. JURIST's correspondent estimates that more than 300,000 people are in attendance at the protest, and reports that the marchers have received a warm welcome in Islamabad, with local residents providing food to the attendees. The protest includes speeches by numerous bar officials and opposition leaders, including the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif [BBC profile; party website], and is expected to conclude with a day-long sit-in at the Parliament House intended to paralyze the capital and government operations. From Pakistan, The News has local coverage. Geo-TV has additional local coverage.

JURIST's correspondent says concerns about security and over-politicization of the event kept Chaudhry from participating in the long march. Dawn News reported that the Pakistani government and representatives of the legal community have agreed [Dawn report] to maintain law and order in the capital during the protests. Members of the lawyers' movement promised last month to hold the march if the new Pakistani government failed to reach an agreement on reinstating the judges. AP has more.

6/14/08 - JURIST's Pakistan correspondent reports that late at the early-morning rally outside the parliament Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan [profile; JURIST news archive] announced that there would be no sit-in and that afterwards the protestors peacefully dispersed. Aitzaz said "we do not have resources to hold a sit-in in front of the parliament house", a statement which surprised many. JURIST's Pakistan correspondent speculates that there was an understanding between the lawyers' leaders and Pakistan's Interior Ministry that the Ministry would not hinder anyone from joining the protest and that the protest would leave the Federal Capital as soon as possible. Aitzaz also said a couple of days ago 'do not expect any bloody revolution from us'. Our correspondent observes: "The Long March is over; no further time frame has been given for the restoration of judges and the question remains 'what next'?"

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