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Iftikhar Chaudhary a free man

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Day of justice: Deposed Pakistan Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, freed from house arrest, waves from the balcony of his residence to his jubilant supporters. The barricades in front of his house were removed on Monday on the orders of Prime Minister-elect Yousuf Raza Gillani. Mr. Chaudhary is flanked by eminent lawyers Aitizaz Ahsan (right) and Tariq Mehmood.
Day of justice: Deposed Pakistan Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, freed from house arrest, waves from the balcony of his residence to his jubilant supporters. The barricades in front of his house were removed on Monday on the orders of Prime Minister-elect Yousuf Raza Gillani. Mr. Chaudhary is flanked by eminent lawyers Aitizaz Ahsan (right) and Tariq Mehmood.

Nirupama Subramanian

High drama after Gillani orders the release of the deposed Chief Justice

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan never thought it would see a day as momentous and dramatic as this one.

Detained for nearly five months after having been deposed by a military ruler, the ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary was on Monday evening suddenly a free man, minutes after Prime Minister-elect Yousuf Raza Gillani ordered his release on the floor of the National Assembly in his acceptance speech.

No sooner was Mr. Gillani's statement relayed to the world outside live on television than hundreds of lawyers, journalists and civil society activists clambered over the walls of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary's home, where he had been detained since the November 3 emergency, to meet him, speak to him and congratulate him.

No one was waiting for a formal release order, nor did it seem to matter. And no one cared that Mr. Gillani would be sworn in Prime Minister only on Tuesday and could order the release only after that.

Unlike on countless occasions over the last few months when people attempted to meet the detained judges, police massed at the entrance to the Judges Colony where the judges of the superior courts have official homes made no attempt to stop anyone, only frisking people for security reasons. Gone were the batons and the teargas.

Instead, police person apologised for frisking people who were going into the colony.

As people streamed up the hilly road to Mr. Chaudhary's homes, a bulldozer arrived to clear the barricades and barbed wire. There was a crush of supporters on his front lawn.

People hugged and congratulated one another. The mood was reminiscent of July 20 last year, the day he was reinstated as Chief Justice by a full court after having been suspended by President Pervez Musharraf in March 2007.

Mr. Chaudhary said he had "no words" to thank the people of Pakistan, political parties and civil society activists for their support to him through the last four and a half months.

"But we have not yet reached our goal," he said, asking people to remain focused on achieving "a bright future for Pakistan through the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution."

Supreme Court Bar Association president and Pakistan People's Party leader Aitizaz Ahsan said the lawyers were prepared to give the new Parliament 30 days to reinstate the judges as promisedin the Murree declaration of PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader Nawaz Sharif.

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