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Pakistani supreme court justice returns to the bench

Associated Press / March 25, 2009
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ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's supreme court chief justice called for an end to judicial corruption after returning to the bench yesterday for the first time in two years - brought back to resolve a political crisis that showed the country's volatility as the fight against terrorism intensifies.

Judge Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry also faced demands to investigate the disappearance of hundreds of people believed detained by security forces since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

Chaudhry, hailed by supporters as a fearless and independent justice, was dismissed two years ago by then-president Pervez Musharraf, spawning protests by lawyers that helped to oust the US-backed military ruler in 2008.

Musharraf's successor, Asif Ali Zardari, had resisted demands to reinstate Chaudhry, apparently out of fears he may examine a deal that has provided Zardari protection from prosecution on corruption allegations.

Zardari relented this month, but only after thousands of demonstrators led by Nawaz Sharif were preparing to surround Parliament.

All sides in the dispute have called for reconciliation, which is likely to please the United States and other Western allies who want Pakistan to focus on battling Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

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