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Pakistani Opposition Leader Declares 'Prelude to Revolution'


Pakistani opposition chief Nawaz Sharif says a protest convoy he is leading toward the capital Islamabad is a "prelude to a revolution."

Mr. Sharif spoke Sunday before his convoy left his home city of Lahore bound for the capital Islamabad, 260 kilometers away. Thousands of his supporters marched behind him.

The activists plan to rally outside Pakistan's parliament Monday to pressure the government into reinstating Supreme Court judges deposed by former President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistani police set up barricades on the edges of Lahore to try to block Mr. Sharif's convoy, but his supporters removed them. Police also barricaded roads into Islamabad with shipping containers.

Earlier Sunday, Mr. Sharif's supporters flooded Lahore's streets in defiance of a government ban and forced police to retreat. Violence erupted when some protesters threw stones at the police, who responded with tear gas and baton charges.

Pakistan's government has ordered a nationwide crackdown on opposition protests that began Wednesday, saying the move is needed to maintain security. It says the proper place to debate the restoration of judges is in Pakistan's parliament, not the streets.

Before leaving his Lahore home Sunday, Mr. Sharif urged supporters to join him on a "long march" to Islamabad. He accused the government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari of turning the country into a "police state."

Mr. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party says police who surrounded his residence early Sunday carried orders to place him and his brother under house arrest for three days. But the police did not stop the opposition leader's convoy from exiting the compound.

The whereabouts of his brother Shahbaz Sharif, also a politician, were unknown.

Pakistan's Supreme Court barred the Sharif brothers from holding elected office last month, prompting both to join a lawyers' campaign for an independent judiciary.

President Zardari has rejected the campaign's demand to restore the Supreme Court justices ousted by his predecessor. Doing so could lead to the reopening of corruption cases against Mr. Zardari, jeopardizing his eligibility to lead the country.

U.S. officials have expressed concern that Pakistan's political crisis could distract it from tackling militants along the Afghan border.

Pakistan's government promised Saturday to review the Supreme Court ruling on the Sharif brothers, but the opposition dismissed the proposal as insufficient.

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