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Pakistan lawyers boycott courts over judicial appointments dispute

[JURIST] Hundreds of Pakistani lawyers boycotted the courts Monday in protest of the recent clash between President Asif Ali Zardari and the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official websites]. Lawyers protested and boycotted the courts [AFP report], refusing to attend court proceedings in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi, and Quetta, after the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP) [official website] called for the strike. The boycotts come after the the Supreme Court on Saturday issued an emergency ruling [press release, PDF] denying [JURIST report] Zardari's judicial appointments. The legal community is divided [BBC report] over the issue, with lawyers supporting both the judiciary and Zardari gathering at the protests. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [official website; BBC profile] has distanced himself from the appointments, claiming that his advice was not considered. The court has summoned Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan for a hearing on Thursday to determine the constitutionality of Zardari's actions.

Pakistan's executive and judiciary have historically had disputes, prompting instability. Last month, the Supreme Court released [JURIST report] a detailed judgment [judgment, PDF] in the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) [text] case, ruling unconstitutional an ordinance granting immunity to President Zardari and 8,000 other government officials from charges of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and terrorism between January 1986 and October 1999. A special 17-member panel of the court rendered the original unanimous decision [JURIST report] in December, paving the way for corruption charges to be brought against Zardari. Zardari is immune from prosecution while in office, but challenges to his eligibility as a presidential candidate are expected. Many other government officials could face immediate prosecution.

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