Pakistan: Lawyers in 'long march' against Musharraf Declan Walsh in Islamabad The Guardian, Tuesday June 10 2008 President Pervez Musharraf faced a fresh assault on his authority yesterday when Pakistan's lawyers launched a week of street protests. Thousands of black-suited lawyers gathered in Karachi at the start of the "long march" - actually a motor convoy - that will cross the country, finishing outside parliament in Islamabad on Thursday. The lawyers want the government to restore about 45 judges sacked by Musharraf last November, including his bitter rival, the former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. "Today is the historic day that the lawyers and judges have come out to protect the country and the constitution," said Sabihuddin Ahmed, the deposed head of the Sindh high court, in Karachi. In a reprise of last year's lawyers' movement that triggered Musharraf's political slide, protesters chanted "Go, Musharraf, go!" and burned an effigy of the president. The protests are a potent challenge to both Musharraf and the fragile government led by the party of the assassinated politician Benazir Bhutto. Supporters include human rights activists, retired army generals and religious and right-wing political parties. Musharraf appeared relaxed at a press briefing on Saturday, vowing never to allow his presidency to be diminished to the extent that he would become a "useless vegetable". The president still enjoys the support of the army and the US. Amid a flurry of speculation that Musharraf was going to resign, President George Bush recently phoned to reiterate his support. The long march is also a headache for the ruling Pakistan People's party (PPP), which has found itself trapped between US policy and domestic pressure to remove Musharraf. The party has tried to ease Musharraf out of office, proposing measures under which his powers would be cut. But they have been outmanoeuvred by coalition partner Nawaz Sharif, who appears to have captured the public mood with demands that all judges be restored and Musharraf tried for treason. Yesterday the PPP moved its policy into line with Sharif's, saying it agreed that Musharraf should be impeached and prosecuted. "The man must be held accountable," said a spokesman, Farhatullah Babar. The long march will be physically difficult, with summer temperatures in many areas hovering in the mid-40s C (about 113F). Lawyers' leaders say that when they reach Islamabad they will mount a sit-in outside parliament until their demands are met, but remain vague about how far they will go in confronting the authorities. There had been speculation the lawyers would march on Musharraf's residence in Rawalpindi, but a senior lawyer, Athar Minallah, ruled that out. "There is no need for that because it appears as if president and parliament are together," he said. An army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said he did not expect that the army would intervene. "It is expected that the interior ministry will ensure that the law and order situation won't get out of control," he said.