Mass demonstrations in Pakistan have forced the government of Asif Ali Zardari to reinstate judges sacked by the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
The victory for the opposition has come at a crucial time in a country that is being ripped apart by the US “war on terror”.
Musharraf sacked Iftikar Chaudhry, the chief justice, after he investigated the complicity of the country’s secret service in the “disappearance” of Pakistanis wanted by the CIA.
Chaudhry is also well-known for investigating corruption among Pakistan’s elite.
His sacking triggered a mass revolt led principally by lawyers. This eventually forced Musharraf from power in 2008.
Zardari won the subsequent elections on the promise that he would pull Pakistan out of the “war on terror” and reinstate the judge.
But once in office he became frightened that Chaudhry’s investigation would uncover Pakistan’s widespread complicity with the US and state corruption.
The U-turn came as opposition groups began a “long march” on the capital Islamabad.
Meanwhile, much to popular anger, US president Barack Obama has decided to continue the strategy of extending the war in Afghanistan into northern Pakistan.
The US regularly uses unmanned drones to fire missiles at Pakistani villages. Five people were killed in the latest incident.
Obama wants the Pakistani army to crush insurgents in the region – a task it has repeatedly failed to do. Zardari has opted instead for a truce with the insurgents.
Pakistan’s government is squeezed between the needs of the US occupation in Afghanistan, an insurgency in the north that developed in reaction to that war, and a popular movement seeking an end to a succession of corrupt governments.
The country is also facing a worsening economic crisis.
The International Monetary Fund recently lent Pakistan £5.4 billion to ease its growing budget deficit.
Conditions of the loan include the scaling back of modest anti-poverty measures.
Over 64 million people, 35 percent of the population, now live in poverty. This has jumped from 35.5 million people in 2005.
The victory for the lawyers’ movement is a blow to Zardari and the US’s requirement for a Pakistani government capable of crushing any dissent.
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