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Ousted Pakistani judges get paychecks

June 18, 2008|From the Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — The new government has paid the salaries of the Supreme Court justices ousted by President Pervez Musharraf last year, a move the governing coalition says highlights its commitment to reinstating them, Pakistani officials said Tuesday.

Restoring the judges to the bench, a key demand of protesting lawyers, could endanger Musharraf's presidency. The stalwart U.S. ally ousted them in November before they could rule on the legality of his reelection a month earlier.

"They are judges, legitimate judges, who were illegally and unconstitutionally removed," Athar Minallah, a close aide to ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, said on the Dawn News television channel. Minallah urged the government to prosecute Musharraf for his actions against them.

Musharraf accused Chaudhry of corruption and of conspiring against efforts to guide Pakistan back to democracy after eight years of military rule. But the move against the justices deepened Musharraf's unpopularity and helped his opponents triumph in February parliamentary elections. They have failed to meet a pledge to quickly restore the judges, amid stubborn differences over how to do it.

Asif Ali Zardari, who leads the main ruling party, has sought to link the return of the judges to constitutional reforms that could take months to pass.

Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gillani, a member of Zardari's party, said Tuesday that the judges would be reinstated by parliament but did not specify a time frame.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, head of the second- largest party in the ruling coalition, argues that the government could immediately restore the judges and has pulled his ministers from the Cabinet in protest.

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