Protests Continue Over Removal of Pakistan's Chief Justice

Tension is mounting throughout much of Pakistan as protests continue over the controversial suspension of the country's top judge. From Islamabad, VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports the chief justice vows to resist his dismissal, setting up a possible constitutional showdown with the military-backed government.

Lawyers and opposition parties rallied Friday afternoon to support the ousted judge, as he was appearing before a judicial tribunal.

President Pervez Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry last week because of unspecified allegations of abuse of power.

Chaudhry is well known for his judicial independence and several recent rulings against General Musharraf's military-backed government.

Hamid Gul, former head of the country's powerful intelligence agency, confronted police near the Supreme Court building and called for General Musharraf's resignation.

"He ought to resign because otherwise the nation's flared up sentiments cannot be placated and it has the potential for a civil war in it unfortunately," Gul said.

Much of the capital Islamabad is under a virtual state of emergency. The downtown area, home to most government offices, has been sealed off behind a thick barricade of razor wire and heavily armed police.

Security forces used tear gas in some areas, and several opposition leaders were arrested Friday.

Thursday President Musharraf said he would abide by the judicial tribunal's ruling. However, local media report that authorities overnight rounded up dozens of opposition figures ahead of Friday's demonstrations.

Pakistani authorities also banned one of the country's top television news programs following the host's pointed commentary on Chaudhry's dismissal.