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Pakistan's opposition leader Sharif calls off "long march" protest
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11:15, March 16, 2009

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Former Pakistani Prime Minister and opposition party chief Nawaz Sharif on Monday called off the "long march" demonstration after the government announced the restoration of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced restoration of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry earlier Monday in a televised address to the nation.

"My countrymen, in accordance with my commitment and the commitment made by the President of Pakistan, I declare reinstatement of Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and all other deposed judges on their positions," the prime minister said.

"On March 21, on the retirement of the incumbent Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry will assume the office of the Chief Justice," he said.

Gilani said that a notification is being issued shortly.

The decision came after a high-level meeting in the President House Sunday night and early Monday.

A large number of political activists and lawyers rushed to the residence of the former chief justice to celebrate his restoration.

The government's decision came the same day when Sharif is due to lead the "long march" procession towards Islamabad to press for the government to restore the deposed chief justice.

Sharif, chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), spearheaded the procession from eastern city of Lahore to Islamabad after defying a detention order by the local administration.

The lawyers and political activists kicked off their "long march" on March 12.

The government has imposed restrictions over the demonstrations, arresting many lawyers and activists to stop them from entering Islamabad.

Gilani has demanded in his speech the immediate release of all political activists and lawyers who have been arrested over the past few days. He also announced end to a ban on political activities.

Some 60 Supreme Court and High Courts judges were sacked in November 2007 when then-President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency. Some of them took fresh oath of office while others including sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry are yet to be restored.

Source: Xinhua

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