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Pakistan ex-PM leads march for judges as Chaudhry reinstatement rumored

[JURIST] Pakistan opposition leader and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Sunday defied a house arrest order to lead a march by opposition activists and members of the Pakistan lawyers' movement [NYT backgrounder; JURIST news archive] against President Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) [party website]. The government had ordered Sharif and many of his supporters to remain in their homes, but Sharif said the order was illegal [Dawn report], and led an estimated crowd of 10,000 in the Lahore protest calling for full reinstatement of judges ousted by Zardari predecessor Pervez Musharraf in November 2007 after his declaration of emergency rule. During the march, protesters reportedly damaged state vehicles used to block roadways [Daily Times report] in the city, and police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Several high-ranking police officials resigned from their posts [Dawn report] Sunday, protesting tactics used against lawyers' movement members during recent demonstrations and detentions.

Sunday's protest was part of a "long march" to Islamabad which began [JURIST report] last Thursday and which is similar to last year's demonstrations against the Musharraf regime. Late last week, Zardari party spokesmen said that he might consider a compromise [JURIST report] deal with the movement on reinstatement and a recent Supreme Court ruling that barred Sharif [JURIST report] from holding elected office based on a past criminal conviction. Sharif and the PML-N have particularly urged the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive]. Chaudhry, supported by many members of Pakistan's bar, insists he is still chief justice [JURIST report] under the Pakistani constitution [text].

7:28 PM ET - Late reports from Pakistan Sunday suggested that Zardari was about to reinstate Chaudhry [BBC report], as well as other as-yet-unrestored judges. Reuters is quoting an unnamed government official [Reuters report] as saying that "Chaudhry will be restored, and there will also be a constitutional package."

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