New Lawyer Arrests in Pakistan Amidst National Protest Over Deposed Judges
Posted Mar 12, 2009 3:29 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
In the latest chapter of a high-profile lawyer-led Pakistan protest saga that has been ongoing for two years, a government crackdown on a "long march" into Islamabad scheduled to begin today reportedly has already resulted in mass arrests and sent many into hiding.
Ignoring a government ban on public protests, thousands gathered in major cities including Karachi and Lahore, resulting in the arrest of lawyers and political activists, reports the New York Times.
A primary focus of the ongoing public protests and national marches, which began under the regime of the country's former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, and continue now in defiance of a parliamentary government, is the removal from office of dozens of appellate judges in late 2007 in what many consider to be contravention of the rule of law. Among those who still haven't been restored to the bench is the country's former chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry.
Originally planned as a peaceful protest over Chaudhry, the long march today has become enmeshed in a struggle between political parties, reports the Washington Post. Already, hundreds have been arrested.
What position the United States will take, under President Barack Obama, on the situation in Pakistan was a prime focus of a State Department briefing yesterday. Spokesman Robert Wood said the U.S. supports freedom of speech, assembly and expression, but did not discuss specifics and would not be pinned down about the U.S. view concerning Chaudhry, reports the Voice of America.
"There is a difficult situation on the ground in Pakistan. What we don't want to see is further violence," Wood said. "We want to see the rule of law respected. We want to see freedom of expression and assembly carried out. And that's where we are."
Al Jazeera: "Pakistan's long march to stability "
Daily Times: "NA Opp blasts govt for pre-long march arrests"
Xinhua: "TV: Dozens arrested in S Pakistan's Karachi ahead of lawyers' long march"