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Pakistan PM warns against criticism of military

PAKISTAN: Pakistan’s Prime Minister warned against criticism of the army after supporters of the country’s suspended top judge attacked the military rule of President Pervez Musharraf.

Premier Shaukat Aziz said the courts should “think about taking action” after a string of lawyers at a seminar attended by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Saturday called on Musharraf to quit as army chief. During fiery speeches some 1,200 lawyers kept shouting “Go Musharraf, go.”

Chaudhry — whose suspension by Musharraf on March 9 has triggered an intense political crisis — stopped short of overtly criticising the president but warned that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

“It does not suit any Pakistani to speak against the armed forces because it affects our defence, integrity and prestige. We strongly condemn it,” Aziz told reporters.

The military had always helped Pakistan in times of need such as earthquakes and floods and the lawyers’ “remarks against armed forces have hurt the sentiments of all Pakistanis,” the premier added.

He said the Supreme Court had allowed the seminar to go ahead on condition that there would be no politics or “character assassination” involved. “The judiciary should now think about taking action on this,” he said.

Musharraf’s opponents say he sacked the independent-minded Chaudhry to weaken the courts as he bids to overturn a constitutional provision that says he should step down as army chief by the end of the year. About 5,000 lawyers and opposition party members rallied outside the Supreme Court to greet Chaudhry ahead of Saturday’s seminar on the independence of the judiciary.

The Supreme Court heard further submissions by Chaudhry’s lawyers on Monday on an appeal by the chief justice against his suspension on charges of misconduct.

Islamabad, Tuesday, AFP.

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