Ousted Pakistani chief justice presses for return


Pakistan’s deposed chief justice claimed he was still the legal head of the Supreme Court and hailed the election defeat of President Pervez Musharraf’s allies as the end of “one-man rule.”


Pakistan’s new government has pledged to reinstate within a month about 60 senior judges purged by Musharraf last year, raising the prospect of a showdown with the US-backed president.


In his first prepared speech since his release from house arrest last week, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry insisted on Tuesday his removal during emergency rule in November was illegal and denounced those who then accepted positions at the court as illegitimate.


He said the results of February parliamentary elections “changed the country’s culture.”


“Who did this? This is done by you people and the people of the country. The message is clear that in future everything will be constitutional in the country and there will be no more one-man rule,” Chaudhry said.


The parties of assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif swept to power in elections supposed to complete Pakistan’s return to democracy after eight years of military rule.


Their coalition faces the tough task of dealing with mounting economic problems and Islamic militancy spreading from the lawless mountains along the Afghan border.


A bomb and gun attack on a road in the northwestern Swat valley on Tuesday wounded eight tribal leaders, one of them fatally, as they headed for talks with the army, which has been battling militants there since last year.


Haider Khan Hoti, the new chief minister of North West Frontier province, said on Tuesday authorities there favour dialogue over the regular military operations ordered by Musharraf.


Some army attacks on militants linked to the Taliban and Al Qaeda have caused civilian casualties. Many Pakistanis argue that has fanned extremism. The new government says it will negotiate with militants willing to give up violence.


“There is no more room for any further bloodshed and destruction,” Hoti, a member of a secular Pashtun nationalist party, said after provincial lawmakers elected him unopposed.


“Use of force should always be the last option to solve problems but unfortunately during the past several years it had been the government’s very first option,” he said.


He urged the international community to understand that the province’s people “are not terrorists.”


“We don’t want suicide jackets, bullets and guns for our children. We want books, we want pens and a better future,” Hoti said. (AP)