Wajihuddin Ahmed, a former justice, and allies raised victory signs after a brief confrontation Wednesday in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Max Becherer/Polaris, for The New York Times
ISLAMABAD – One of Pakistan’s most distinguished jurists and a dissident lawyer approached a police cordon on Wednesday in a residential quarter here, and demonstrated in no time that even though the government claims it is taking steps to ease emergency rule, it remains firmly in place.
The government had broadcast news that the dismissed chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, under house arrest since de facto martial law was declared more than two weeks ago, was now free to move around.
So Wajihuddin Ahmed, a former Supreme Court justice, and a younger lawyer, Athar Minallah, accompanied by a large group of the legal fraternity, turned up at noon where Mr. Chaudhry lives. Confronted by a line of police officers and a curtain of barbed wire, they asked to see him. They were turned away, proving, they said, that Mr. Chaudhry and other dismissed Supreme Court justices who live in the same area were still captive.
Minutes later, as the pair drove down Constitution Avenue, the broad boulevard of the capital, five men in civilian clothes stopped their car and pulled Mr. Minallah out. In short order Mr. Minallah, a member of the cabinet of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in the early years of his presidency but now an energetic organizer of lawyers’ protests, was arrested…
… Mr. Minallah was pushed into a police van and hauled off.
Mr. Ahmed, considered one of the most principled of Pakistan’s judges, refused to take the oath of office on the Supreme Court after General Musharraf grabbed power in 1999.
As part of his challenge to General Musharraf, Mr. Ahmed filed a petition in the Supreme Court asserting that the general’s re-election as president in early October was illegal. The petition was rejected Monday by the Supreme Court, which has been packed with Musharraf loyalists since the general’s Nov. 3 emergency decree suspended the Constitution and dismissed the court that was led by Mr. Chaudhry. His court seemed poised to rule against the legality of General Musharraf’s re-election.
Mr. Ahmed and Mr. Minallah were intent on showing that even though the government announced Tuesday that 3,416 detainees had been released, this was probably not the case, and that Mr. Chaudhry, in particular, remained under house arrest. The government said 2,000 remained in detention.
Human rights groups and Western diplomats said it was not possible to verify how many people had been freed.
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