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Pakistani Police Use Tear Gas to Disperse Anti-Musharraf Protesters

  • VOA News

Pakistani police used tear gas and arrested scores of people to break up violent protests against the dismissal of the country's chief justice by President Pervez Musharraf.

Opposition lawmakers, lawyers and activists gathered outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad Friday in support of top judge Iftikhar Chaudhry, who appeared before a judicial tribunal earlier in the day. The panel adjourned his hearing until March 21st.

Demonstrations also took place in the cities of Karachi and Lahore.

General Musharraf suspended Chaudhry last week on unspecified allegations of abuse of power. The move has ignited a firestorm of anti-Musharraf sentiment and helped unite political opposition to the military-backed government.

In Washington, the State Department urged police and demonstrators to "exercise the utmost degree of restraint" to avoid further violence.

Spokesman Sean McCormack said there should be an accommodation between the two sides -- the police have a right to preserve order and protesters have a right to express their views.

Details of the case against Chaudhry have not been made public.

During today's (Friday's) unrest in Islamabad, Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency, confronted police and called on General Musharraf to resign. The president says he will abide by the panel's ruling.

Justice Chaudhry is known for his judicial independence and has ruled several times against the Pakistan government.

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