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Pakistan Crisis: Lawyers Strike; Court Aide Shot


A worsening crisis in Pakistan over the country’s judicial independence reportedly included a nationwide strike by the legal community and general strikes that shut down major cities on Monday. Following violence over the weekend that each side blamed on the other, 2,500 lawyers rallied in Lahore against the government of General Pervez Musharraf and the streets of Karachi, a city of 12 million, were empty due to a general strike and military orders to shoot rioters on sight.

Meanwhile, a Pakistan Supreme Court aide was murdered at his Islamabad home, but authorities said his shooting was a random crime, according to the London Times. The victim’s brother reportedly disputed that account.

Protesters blame the government for clashes that left 41 people dead in Karachi over the weekend, in what local press accounts described as the most serious political violence in decades. It was generated by the ongoing political battle between Pakistan’s military-run government and its judiciary, following Musharraf’s decision to suspend the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, on March 9, for alleged official misconduct. Traditionally, the judiciary has been viewed as deferring to the military, but Chaudhry has broken that mold and taken a public stand for civil rights. His post-suspension rallies reportedly have been attended by tens of thousands – and, until this weekend, have reportedly been non-violent.

A Pakistan Supreme Court panel is expected to review Chaudhry’s suspension soon. Accounts differ as to exactly what led to the violence in Karachi and the Monday strike. However, all agree that there was a clash between Chaudhry’s entourage and a pro-government group and it appears that Chaudry was prevented from speaking to the Sindh High Court Bar Association, according to AP, the Islamic Republic News Agency and The News, a Karachi newspaper.

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