(AFP) – Oct 1, 2007
ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistan's government suspended the Islamabad police chief and two other senior officials on a judge's orders Monday following a violent crackdown on protests against President Pervez Musharraf.
Dozens of people were injured when police baton-charged and tear-gassed lawyers and journalists during a rally on Saturday against military ruler Musharraf's plan to be re-elected in a vote on October 6.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, a thorn in the government's side since Musharraf tried to sack him in March, told the government to arrest Islamabad inspector general Marwat Shah earlier Monday.
Shah "should be suspended and arrested because he is responsible for all that happened on Saturday," Chaudhry said at a special Supreme Court hearing that he called to probe the violence.
He also called for the suspension of the police chief's second-in-command and the city's deputy administration chief.
"The three officials have been suspended on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan," Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema told AFP.
Saturday's clashes erupted outside the country's election commission and near the Supreme Court itself as the commission approved Musharraf's candidature for another five-year term in power.
The court had the previous day dismissed opposition petitions against Musharraf's eligibility, ruling that he could contest the vote while keeping his role as army chief.
Chaudhry was not on the nine-judge bench that heard the case.
Video footage of the bloody clashes -- dubbed the "Battle of Constitution Avenue" by Pakistani newspapers after the city centre location of the violence -- was also shown to the court.
"We are extremely thankful to the chief justice," Mazhar Abbas, a senior official from the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, said on the steps of the court.
Musharraf, a key US ally who seized power in a coup eight years ago, has said he will quit his military role before November 15 if he wins the election.
He is expected to win the poll ahead of two opposition candidates as it is by a ballot of the national assembly and four provincial assemblies, in which his allies have a majority.
But the political turmoil continues to brew.
Musharraf's allies on Monday thwarted an opposition plan to dissolve the Islamist-led assembly in North West Frontier Province, a move that could have damaged the credibility of the vote.
Pro-Musharraf parties submitted a vote of no-confidence against the chief minister of the conservative province bordering Afghanistan, preventing him from calling for a dissolution.
However, opposition MPs say they will resign en masse from the national parliament on Tuesday in a further bid to undermine the election.
Meanwhile, Musharraf still faces a last-ditch opposition challenge in the Supreme Court against the election commission's approval of his nomination papers.
"We will move the court today against the acceptance of the candidature of General Musharraf," said the legal community's candidate for the presidency, former Supreme Court judge Wajihuddin Ahmad.
The party of former premier Benazir Bhutto has also fielded a candidate.
The Election Commission on Monday issued a final list of the five presidential hopefuls, which includes two covering or stand-by candidates for Musharraf and for Bhutto's candidate.
Musharraf meanwhile continues to battle a wave of Islamist violence sparked by the deadly siege and storming of the Al-Qaeda-linked Red Mosque in Islamabad in July.
Sixteen people were killed on Monday morning when a suicide bomber disguised in a woman's burqa struck in the northwestern garrison town of Bannu.
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