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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Pakistan lawyer's house shot at
Munir A Malik
Mr Malik says he is being victimised
Unidentified gunmen fired shots early on Thursday morning at the home of a top anti-government lawyer in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.

Munir A Malik was in his house with his family at the time of the shooting. No one was injured. Police said a number of automatic rounds were fired.

The attack came two days before a rally in the city in support of suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

President Musharraf accuses the judge of misuse of office, which he denies.

The decision triggered weeks of nationwide protests by disaffected lawyers and opposition parties.

Observers say anger over the judge's suspension poses the biggest challenge to Gen Musharraf's rule since he seized power in 1999.

'Intimidation'

Mr Malik is president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and one of the lawyers leading the campaign to have the chief justice reinstated.

It is our constitutional and legal right to hold rallies and we intend to do that peacefully
Abul-al-Inam,
Bar Association

He says he has had to hire armed guards after receiving threats - it is not clear from whom.

On Wednesday, a court ruled he could reopen his offices after they were shut by the authorities.

After Thursday morning's shooting, he said he was being subjected to a campaign of intimidation.

"It will not deter me from representing the chief justice and we will carry on our campaign for the independence of the judiciary," Mr Malik told reporters.

The Associated Press news agency quoted a local police official as saying about 15 spent shell casings had been recovered from the scene.

He said the shooting was "apparently an attempt to create harassment" but did not say who police thought might be behind the attack.

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry
Mr Chaudhry was suspended from his post in March

The authorities in Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, condemned the shooting.

"The government will leave no stone unturned to reach to the depth of this incident and the culprits will be brought to book," Sindh government spokesman Salahuddin Haider said.

Separately, another Karachi lawyer said men posing as plainclothes police had tried to enter his home about an hour after the shots were fired at Mr Malik's house.

Akhtar Hussain, the ex-president of the Sindh High Court Association, said the men threatened to break his door down. They left when he called a police help line.

Other senior lawyers say that they have also been targeted since the campaign against the chief justice's suspension started.

Karachi address

The alleged threats come ahead of a planned 12 May address to be delivered by Mr Chaudhry in Karachi.

Thousands of lawyers are expected to turn up for his visit.

"We intent to hold a peaceful reception for the chief justice," Abul-al-Inam, a retired high court judge and spokesman for the Bar Association, told the BBC.

He said the provincial authorities had asked them to postpone the 12 May rally, as it might "result in bloodshed".

"We will not be cowed down by such threats and actions. It is our constitutional and legal right to hold rallies and we intend to do that peacefully," he said.

Correspondents say tensions are high in Karachi as Sindh's ruling MQM party also plans to hold a rally in support of the president on the same day.




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