Pakistan top judge still retained

Musharaf seems to be confident of control. Even to leave the country he must have felt that there would be no move to toss him out. Significantly the chief justice is still under house arrest even though judges have been released. The chief justice has always been a thorn in the side of Musharraf. The spotlight seems to be off Bhutto for the moment. The US would be happy if Musharraf would make another deal with her but it doesn't seem likely given Bhutto's recent comments on Musharraf.

Pakistan top judge still detained
Pakistan's ousted chief justice remains under arrest, a day after officials said judges detained under emergency rule could move around freely.
Iftikhar Chaudhry tried to leave his Islamabad residence but was stopped from doing so by security forces.

Meanwhile, President Musharraf has amended the constitution to prevent future legal challenges to his actions.

His government has urged the Commonwealth to delay a decision on suspending Pakistan from its meetings.

Gen Musharraf imposed emergency rule on 3 November, saying the measure was needed to rein in the judiciary and fight extremists.

He is under pressure to end the state of emergency ahead of general elections promised for 8 January.

Judge held

Former Chief Justice Chaudhry was removed from his post on 3 November and has been under house arrest ever since.

On Tuesday, the government announced it had released more than 3,000 people jailed under emergency rule.

Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said judges would also be "free to go home if they so wish or desire".

"They are living in the judges colony of their own accord - they can leave if they want to," he said.

Mr Chaudhry tried to leave his residence on Wednesday but was stopped from going to the Supreme Court by large numbers of security forces ringing his residence.

Another judge, former presidential candidate Wajihuddin Ahmed, tried to visit Mr Chaudhry and was briefly detained along with a lawyer.

The release of political opponents has been a key demand of opposition parties who are threatening to boycott the January vote.

A number of leading political figures are still being held.

Late on Tuesday, about 170 journalists detained earlier in the day in the southern city of Karachi were freed.

Commonwealth talks

On Wednesday, President Musharraf flew back to Pakistan from talks in Saudi Arabia.

His visit had encouraged rumours that he would hold contacts with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or seek to prolong his exile there.

A presidential spokesman said Gen Musharraf had met King Abdullah and other officials but had had no contact with Mr Sharif.

Mr Sharif's party, meanwhile, was adamant he would not hold negotiations "with a military dictator".

On his return to Pakistan, Gen Musharraf issued an amendment to the constitution which says his declaration of the state of emergency cannot be over-ruled in court.

Analysts say the general's move is an another attempt to protect himself after he relinquishes the post of army chief, which he may do shortly.

Later on Wednesday, Pakistan announced it had asked the Commonwealth for "a short postponement" of its decision on whether to suspend it from its meetings.

Foreign ministers of the 53-nation grouping, mainly made up of former British colonies, are meeting in Uganda. Gen Musharraf has been given until Thursday to lift emergency rule.

Suspension would be seen as largely symbolic, observers say.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/11/21 15:22:13 GMT



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