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Page last updated at 14:58 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

No new oath for Pakistani judge

Iftikhar Chaudhry (centre) celebrates in Islamabad, 16 March
Iftikhar Chaudhry celebrated with his allies in Islamabad on Monday

Pakistan's sacked top judge, Iftikhar Chaudhry, will not have to swear a new oath when he formally returns to office on Sunday, officials have confirmed.

Mr Chaudhry was reinstated on Monday in his old post in a move which defused a major political crisis threatening President Asif Ali Zardari.

Ten other judges were reinstated immediately, also without new oaths, a presidential spokesman said.

But questions remain about an amnesty granted under the previous president.

Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif called off a march on the capital, Islamabad, after the government moved to reinstate the judges.

The unrest alarmed Western powers and the US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, hailed the decision to pull back.

Legal dispute

Mr Chaudhry and 60 other judges were dismissed by former President Pervez Musharraf in 2007 and most of these were subsequently reinstated.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Historic times for the entire nation, congratulations to every one.
Zaigham, Lahore, Pakistan

One reason for Mr Zardari's initial failure to reinstate all of them is thought to be the fact that Mr Chaudhry had challenged an amnesty given by Gen Musharraf that enabled Mr Zardari to return to Pakistan.

It the amnesty was overturned, Mr Zardari, the widower of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, could be left exposed to corruption charges.

The opposition says it wants the amnesty overturned in order to put Mr Musharraf on trial.

The announcement of the reinstatement on Monday triggered scenes of jubilation from Mr Chaudhry's supporters outside his home in Islamabad.

The BBC's Barbara Plett, who was at the scene, says the gathered lawyers and activists were in exultant mood, regarding this as the triumph of two years of struggle against both military and civilian governments.

The government also said opposition activists and leaders detained over the past week of mounting disturbances would be freed and a ban on demonstrations in the capital and several provinces lifted.

Mr Sharif has declared the restoration of the sacked top judges the beginning of a new era in Pakistan.

Cheered on by hundreds of supporters outside his home on Tuesday, he said 16 March had been a historic day for Pakistan.

Sigh of relief

Our correspondent says the development is also a victory for Mr Sharif, a long-time opponent of President Zardari.

He was mobbed by supporters in Gujranwala, about 80km (50 miles) north-west of Lahore, telling them: "We have said that we will restore the judges and the independent judiciary and by the grace of Allah we have achieved it.

"From here, a journey of development will start. From here, a revolution will come."

Our correspondent says that everyone, including Pakistan's Western supporters, will be heaving a sigh of relief that what looked to have been a dangerous political confrontation appears to have been defused peacefully.

The West wants Pakistan to focus on the battle against the Taleban on the Afghan border.

The past two days have provided fresh evidence of the militant insurgency there, with attacks on Sunday and Monday on container terminals near Peshawar in the north-west. The terminals supply Nato and US troops in Afghanistan.



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