Blow to Musharraf as new premier frees chief justice

Iftikhar Chaudhry, Pakistan's deposed chief justice, has been freed from house arrest within minutes of the country's new Prime Minister being chosen, in a swift double blow to President Pervez Musharraf.

Mr Chaudhry, long a thorn in Mr Musharraf's side, had been under house arrest for five months following his sacking, but he emerged triumphant on to the balcony of his white-walled mansion to loud cheers from the crowds gathered on the lawn below.

"On behalf of all judges of the high courts and supreme [court] who were illegally and unconstitutionally detained for the last five months, I thank all of you for your support," said Mr Chaudhry, wearing a bullet-proof vest concealed beneath his long black tunic. "I do not have enough words to thank you all."

The judge was released on the orders of Yousaf Raza Gilani, a long-time loyalist of the assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto and member of her PPP party, who was elected as Pakistan's Prime Minister with more than two-thirds of the votes in a parliamentary ballot.

Yesterday's events will not have made for comfortable viewing at the presidential estate in Rawalpindi. The chants of "Go, Musharraf, go" at the judges' colony echoed the slogans heard in parliament, where the forces are now arrayed against the deeply unpopular President, with a man he imprisoned for four years at its head.

"Democracy has been revived due to the sacrifice of Benazir Bhutto," bellowed Mr Gilani, in his opening remarks to the parliament. "We didn't get here out of charity. This moment came because of continued struggle and martyrdom."

Mr Chaudhry's release is the most striking symbol yet of how power has slipped away from Mr Musharraf, a key Washington ally. But it remains to be seen if he and the 60 other judges sacked when the President imposed a state of emergency last November will be reinstated.

"We still have to achieve our goal and we must keep our efforts focused for a bright future for Pakistan for the rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution," said Mr Chaudhry.

Earlier this month, Pakistan's two largest parties – the PPP, led by Ms Bhutto's widower Asif Zardari, and the PML-N, led by the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif – said they would reinstate the sacked judges through a vote in parliament within 30 days of a government being formed.

Khwaja Asif, a senior member of Mr Sharif's party, said: "This was our promise to the nation, and we stand by it." But some senior PPP members are less inclined, with one complaining that Mr Chaudhry's enthusiasm for challenging the bureaucracy "could make it difficult for a government to work properly".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established managed services IT...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003