(dpa) - Tens of thousands of Pakistani lawyers on Monday launched a new nationwide boycott of court proceedings to demand that embattled President Pervez Musharraf release the detained former chief justice of the Supreme Court.
The action, which followed a meeting by the Pakistan Bar Council on Saturday, effectively cripples the country's legal system by halting court hearings and comes only a week before crucial parliamentary elections.
The lawyers were previously staging only partial boycotts of the courts on certain days in their continuing demand that Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry be released from house arrest and reinstated as chief justice.
Musharraf sacked Chaudhry and dozens of other judges after declaring a state of emergency last November and suspending the constitution amid fears that the Supreme Court was going to overturn his controversial October re-election.
While most of the judges from the Supreme Court and various provincial High Courts were freed from detention, Musharraf has refused to release Chaudhry, with whom he had a protracted political struggle throughout 2007.
The bar council voted to re-examine the boycott following the elections on February 18, which are meant to bring a return of civilian government to Pakistan following more than eight years of military rule under Musharraf, who recently retired as army chief.