The Pakistani government on Monday announced the restoration of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry following protests from lawyers and activists, a move aimed at defusing the rising political turmoil.
"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," said Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in a televised speech early Monday morning.
Gilani said that Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry will take the office on March 21 on the retirement of the incumbent Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar.
Gilani also demanded immediate release of all political activists and lawyers who have been arrested over the past few days.
The lawyers and political activists kicked off their "long march" on March 12, and planned to reach capital Islamabad Monday to stage sit-in pressing for the government to restore the judges including Chaudhry sacked in November 2007 when then-President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, also chief of opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), spearheaded the procession from eastern city of Lahore to Islamabad after defying a detention order issued by the local administration.
Sharif has called off the "long march" and sit-in after the government's decision to restore the chief justice.
Sharif congratulated the whole nation over the reinstatement of deposed judges, saying the restoration of chief justice is a big success and a prelude to positive change.
A large number of political activists and lawyers rushed to the residence of the former chief justice to celebrate his restoration.
Pakistan plunged into another political turmoil just one year after the new government, led by Pakistan People's Party (PPP), took office.
Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari, also the PPP co-chairman, broke up last August after Zardari refused to reinstate the chief justice.
The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan issued a statement immediately after the government's decision, saying "this is a statesmanlike decision taken to defuse a serious confrontation, and the apparent removal of this long-standing national issue is a substantial step towards national reconciliation".
"Now is the time for all Pakistanis and their political representatives to work together, with the support of their friends and allies, to peacefully strengthen their democracy and ensure a positive dialogue as they move forward to deal with the many issues confronting them," said the statement.