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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 July 2007, 05:24 GMT 06:24 UK
Musharraf 'respects' court ruling
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. File photo
The row is seen by some as Gen Musharraf's biggest challenge
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has said he will fully accept a court decision to reinstate the country's chief justice.

Iftikhar Chaudhry was suspended by the president in March amid claims of corruption, but the Supreme Court on Friday quashed all charges.

Mr Chaudhry has now become a focus of opposition to Gen Musharraf.

Gen Musharraf, who seized power in 1999, is facing mounting criticism of his rule and a wave of violence.

"The president respects the decision of the Supreme Court," Gen Musharraf's spokesman was quoted as saying by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

"The president has stated earlier that any judgement the Supreme Court arrives at will be honoured, respected and adhered to," the spokesman said.

The government also said the case had no political motive.

Jubilant crowds

On Friday, the Supreme Court judges ruled by 10 votes to three to quash all charges against Mr Chaudhry, calling his suspension "illegal".

It is a victory for the entire nation
Aitzaz Ahsan,
Mr Chaudhry's lawyer

Delivering the court's verdict, presiding Judge Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday said: "The reference [against Mr Chaudhry] has been set aside and the chief justice has been reinstated."

Lawyers applauded the ruling as it was read out, and jubilant crowds outside the court shouted chants of "Go Musharraf, go".

Mr Chaudhry's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, told reporters: "He has been restored and it is a victory for the entire nation."

Pakistan's Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry 20/07
Judge Chaudhry is a staunch opponent of Gen Musharraf

Officials alleged that several people had complained to the president that Mr Chaudhry had misused his office and received favours. In particular, he was alleged to have procured a top police job for his son.

But critics say the government has not shown similar zeal in pursuing more serious charges - such as financial embezzlement and property fraud - against other top judges.

They have been accusing the president of plotting to remove an independent-minded judge to forestall legal challenges to his plan to ask parliament for another five-year term in office.

Mr Chaudhry's suspension in March triggered mass protests.

He has become a highly controversial figure in recent months as he has toured the country.

Although he has not directly criticised Gen Musharraf, his campaign road show has definitely taken on the feel of a political campaign, the BBC's Dan Isaacs in Islamabad says.

The judicial crisis has been overshadowed by the recent siege of Islamabad's radical Red Mosque and a spate of bombings that have killed scores of people.

Celebrations in Islamabad after the verdict

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