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Pakistan's top judge back into old office

PAKISTAN'S chief justice returned to his post yesterday after two years of protests over his ousting, which aided the downfall of one government and pressured the current administration to yield to the opposition.

Hundreds of lawyers and activists who have agitated for Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry's return gathered outside the judge's home for a ceremonial flag raising.

"It is a day of victory for the people of Pakistan," lawyer leader Aitzaz Ahsan said.

The top judge tackled routine duties yesterday such as approving panels of jurists, a court statement said.

Chaudhry was formally back in office after midnight yesterday following the Saturday retirement of the chief justice who had replaced him.

Former president Pervez Musharraf deposed Chaudhry in 2007. The justice's firing sparked a wave of lawyer-led protests that helped force Musharraf to allow elections that brought his foes to power in early 2007.

Musharraf resigned last summer and was succeeded by Asif Ali Zardari.

President Zardari reinstated the chief justice after activist lawyers and opposition supporters began a march toward the capital, where they planned to stage a sit-in at Parliament.

Also yesterday, as part of an attempt by the government at reconciliation, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani went to meet with Nawaz Sharif, head of the opposition party, who along with his brother Shahbaz was barred last month from holding elected office.

"We are bringing an olive branch from the federal government. We want to go through the reconciliation. I have come with a goodwill message," Gilani said ahead of the meeting.


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