Why Pak lawyers are at the centre of protests against General Musharraf
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Behind the public rage of Pakistan's lawyers, who protested for a third day on Wednesday, lies a long-smoldering resentment toward the country's military President, who at first held out a promise for educated, politically moderate Pakistanis, but steadily squandered their support.
That disappointment turned to fury after President Pervez Musharraf abolished the Supreme Court and scrapped the Constitution, touching a raw nerve among Pakistan's lawyers, some with degrees from the best universities abroad and with experience in how other societies had preserved legal rights.
On Tuesday in a telephone address to lawyers here in the capital, the ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry urged them to continue to defy the state of Emergency. Hundreds of lawyers took to the streets again in the eastern city of Lahore and in Multan, about 200 miles to the southwest of Lahore. The police arrested scores of protesters, and more than 100 lawyers were injured in street battles.
In interviews on Tuesday, a day after hundreds were tear-gassed, beaten and rounded up by the police, the lawyers said they had taken to the streets because they felt that Pakistan's first taste of judicial independence was being snatched away.
"How do you function as a lawyer when the law is what the General says it is?" said a prominent lawyer in Islamabad, Babar Sattar, who has a Harvard law degree.
Athar Minallah, who holds a master's degree in law from Cambridge and was in Musharraf's Cabinet during the first two years of his rule, said lawyers were outraged that the General was moving backward. "When the Supreme Court started acting like an independent institution for the first time in 60 years, they came down very hard," he said. "In the past, the Supreme Court had always connived with the establishment and the military."
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