Pakistani lawyers' leader released from house arrest
( dpa ) - The leader of Pakistan's powerful lawyers' association, jailed after embattled President Pervez Musharraf took emergency powers three months ago, was released from house arrest on Sunday.
Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, was one of dozens of lawyers and judges sacked or jailed after Musharraf declared a state of emergency on November 3 to prevent the Supreme Court from overturning his controversial re-election the previous month.
"It feels good and I am grateful to God and the people of Pakistan," Ahsan said in a live interview with DawnNews TV. "I'm humbled by the affection and support I've received."
He called on the incoming parliament, which will be led by opposition parties that swept to power in February 18 national elections, to reinstate the judges and reassert the constitutional authority that Musharraf took away after seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1999.
"We will give (parliament) some time, but not a long time," he said, adding that the bar association would consider holding a protest march from the eastern city of Lahore, where he was being detained, to Islamabad if the judges were not reinstated.
A key aide to sacked Supreme Court justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, Musharraf's bitter political rival, Ahsan had organized rallies that saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets in cities across Pakistan to denounce Chaundry's initial suspension in March 2007.
His ability to mobilize opposition forces was viewed as a threat following Musharraf's power grab last November, which he later lifted after a new panel of hand-picked Supreme Court justices affirmed his election win.
But Musharraf's key political backers, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, came in a dismal third in the polls, relegating them to the opposition and leaving the president vulnerable to impeachment.
Ahsan is also a senior member of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, which won a plurality in the elections.