If one single act marked the rise of the educated elites against Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf, then it was the defiance of his rule that came from senior judges and the bar. It is not surprising then, that one of the first acts of the new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, a protégé of the late Benazir Bhutto, was to direct the release of the judges held under house arrest. The Associated Press reports:
The deposed chief justice emerged from house arrest Monday after Pakistan’s new prime minister ordered police to pull back razor-wire barricades and release judges ousted last year by President Pervez Musharraf.
The judge’s appearance on the balcony of his Islamabad villa drew cheers from hundreds of flag-waving, drum-beating supporters and dramatically underlined how power is slipping away from a stalwart U.S. ally.
Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry and his family had been confined to the house since Musharraf declared a state of emergency in November and sacked 60 senior judges ahead of a Supreme Court ruling that could have invalidated his re-election as president.
“I have no words to thank you for the way you struggled for nearly five months for the enforcement of the rule of law and our constitution,” said a beaming Chaudhry as lawyers and opposition activists clapped and threw rose petals.
The new government’s focus is now expected swiftly to turn against Musharraf and his extraordinary powers, which will, in all likelihood, quickly be disassembled.