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Pakistan Police and Lawyers Clash

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

IFTIKHAR CHAUDHRY: (Foreign language spoken)

MONTAGNE: Good morning.

PHILIP REEVES: Hi.

MONTAGNE: Now, before we get to what the chief justice said, tell us why it's significant that he spoke at all to this group.

REEVES: Now, the lawyers in Pakistan are already emerging as the frontline in opposition to the emergency rule and in the campaign for democracy. And they came out in the streets yesterday and clashed with the police. Many of them and others who oppose Musharraf are looking to the chief justice to lead them. And this is a sign that he may be stepping out and doing so.

MONTAGNE: But it was a pretty dramatic scene again - I'm looking at a photograph here of a lawyer in a suit amid teargas. And hearing from the chief justice, what did he say to them? Did he rally the troops?

REEVES: Now, he says Chaudhry talked about the fact that when Musharraf suspended the constitution, he also required all Supreme Court judges to take a new oath under a Provisional Constitutional Order. Most of the judges refused and they're now being replaced. And we asked Nassir what Chaudhry then said about the legality of the new appointments to the Supreme Court.

JAMAL ABDUL NASSIR: All the judges who have taken oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order is unlawful, unconstitutional, illegal and immoral. He also said the restraint order contains instructions to all the functionalists of the government. They cannot take any action under the Provisional Constitutional Order.

REEVES: So, Renee, we have a situation where the chief justice, now former chief justice in Musharraf's view of Pakistan, is declaring the new Supreme Court that Musharraf is creating to be illegal.

MONTAGNE: And what about Musharraf's chief opponent, Benazir Bhutto? She left the country just before the imposition of the state of emergency. Where is she now? And has she joined the opposition?

REEVES: Well, she is expected to come to Islamabad, here, sometime in the next 24 hours. She has been calling on Musharraf to hold elections in January, to quit his army chief. And she said he needs to do these things to defuse a volatile situation. She's also condemned the mass arrest of the last few days and the police brutality against protesters. But she has yet to unleash her party onto the streets. She may be waiting until November the 15th when Musharraf's term as president is supposed to expire and the he intends to be sworn in again as president.

MONTAGNE: There was an outcry from his allies abroad when Musharraf declared martial law. Does he have any friends left at home, back there in Pakistan?

REEVES: We haven't yet seen concrete evidence the army's turning against Musharraf, but we all will be watching that relationship between Musharraf and the army very closely in the next few weeks.

MONTAGNE: Philip, thanks very much.

REEVES: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Philip Reeves speaking from Islamabad on the fourth day of the state of emergency imposed by Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.