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Protests by journalists, lawyers ebb in Pakistan
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10:36, November 23, 2007

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Protests by the judiciary community and journalists against emergency in Pakistan gradually wore off Thursday as more opposition party leaders were released.

About a dozen journalists gathered at the local press club of southern city Karachi, looking more relaxed.

Journalists numbered in hundreds clashed with the police at the press club Tuesday when they protested against a media ban imposed under the state of emergency, leading to the brief arrest of more than a hundred.

A crowd of 300 gathered there on Wednesday, delivering speech and chanting "free media," and in the end offered the police roses labeled with notes reading "peaceful defiance."

Some of the policemen, charged with maintaining the state of emergency, smiled in front of media cameras, with roses in hands.

"It was a posture from the journalists to show that they want to make peace with the police," a reporter working with a local newspaper said.

Separately, staff members of Geo, one of Pakistan's most watched private TV channels banned under the state of emergency, staged a concert in the evening in protest against government ban.

The Karachi Bar Association has been holding indoor protests daily at its premises near the city court, which a senior member of the organization said was something of a routine recently.

The protest, however, was largely confined to the press and the judiciary community. "There was no protest by the general public in Karachi, not a single one," a senior local journalist told Xinhua.

Protests were wearing off as the government relaxed the emergency, imposed on Nov. 3 when pressures of political turmoil, especially from the judiciary pillar, piled upon President Pervez Musharraf.

Life of the general public was mostly not affected as many continued playing cricket just steps away from patrolling police and security forces in Islamabad.

The election commission has announced an official agenda for elections of federal and provincial assemblies to be held on Jan. 8. The election processes were proceeding, with nomination papers issued for dozens of candidates by Thursday.

The government of the Northwest Frontier Province on Thursday released all the detained leaders of the Nawaz faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, led by exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

They were arrested on Nov. 9 during a protest rally at Peshawar, the official Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

The government said Wednesday it had released more than 5,000 lawyers, judges and political workers detained under emergency, leaving another 600 to be released.

The Supreme Court dismissed the last petition against Musharraf's re-election Thursday, paving the way for the election commission to officially announce the Oct. 6 presidential election results in favor of the army general, who has promised to shed his army uniforms once re-elected.

The opposition, including the Pakistan People's Party led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, continued calling for lifting emergency and accused the ruling party of already rigging the elections.

Cricket legend and chairman of the Pakistan Tehrik Insaaf (Justice Movement) Imran Khan, detained after imposition of emergency and released Wednesday, called Thursday for boycott of the elections.

Bhutto was obviously facing a tough choice over the next move of her party, giving green light Thursday for party members to file nomination papers while leaving the boycott choice open.

The caretaker government has repeatedly called for participation by all parties in the elections and tried to fend off pressures exerted by western countries on Pakistan to lift emergency, saying that Musharraf had led the country into fast economic development and that it had been making efforts to ensure the fairness and transparency of the upcoming elections.


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