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The statement by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry

“The whole of the judiciary of Pakistan is struggling for the supremacy of the constitution. The Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO)|issued by General Musharraf has been declared a step to interfere in the independence of the judiciary, and therefore a judicial ‘restraining’ order against it had been issued by a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court, which has to be respected and enforced.

"Any action by the government after the passing of this order is illegal, including the detention of lawyers and members of civil society whose only sin is that they opposed the emergency and the PCO. Up to 13 justices of the Supreme Court of Pakistan have refused to take an oath under the PCO. Yesterday morning,the judges of the Supreme Court were stopped as they sought to carry out their judicial duty, including the hearing of a case by the full court regarding the PCO, about which the restraining order had been passed.

"This order has been passed and those who defy it, defy the constitution. I and all the judges of the Supreme Court were exercising our jurisdiction in accordance with the law and constitution and are determined to do so in the future.”

Judge who angered the general

Until earlier this year Iftikhar Chaudhry was a high-ranking judge with a low profile. That changed overnight. On 9 March, when Pervez Musharraf suspended the Chief Justice, he set in train a series of events that catapulted Mr Chaudhry into the international spotlight and transformed him into a figure of defiance and resistance against the excesses of the |military government.

General Musharraf claimed he was suspending the Chief Justice because of alleged nepotism but most observers believe it was because the judge had made a series of rulings against the government.

After Mr Chaudhry, 58, was reinstated by a decision of his fellow justices on the Supreme Court in July, he continued to make rulings that angered General Musharraf. Perhaps |of greatest aggravation, the Supreme Court said it would consider a case challenging General Musharraf’s eligibility to stand for election as President while still holding the |position as head of the armed forces. The court ruled that the election should go ahead and General Musharraf duly won.

When word reached General Musharraf that the court was still poised to rule against him |the President decided to act once and for all.

Andrew Buncombe