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High Court Reinstates Pakistan's Chief Judge

Since his suspension, Chaudhry has spoken at progressively larger demonstrations across the country as he became the center of a broader movement to restore democratic, civilian rule to Pakistan.

Chaudhry also challenged his suspension in the courts. On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the suspension was "illegal" and that he should be allowed to return to work immediately.

When the decision was read, hundreds of black-suited lawyers who had packed the courtroom all day erupted in an ecstatic celebration. They cheered wildly, climbed onto each other's shoulders and flashed victory signs as others recorded the moment on camera phones. "Go, Musharraf, go!" they chanted as they marched out of the courthouse.

"Everyone thinks that there's no justice in the country, that only generals get to decide everything," said another Chaudhry attorney, Ali Ahmed Kurd, as he shook with excitement. "But the court today was very brave. This is the first time that the justices have told us a government of generals will be no more. General Musharraf should resign."

The celebration spilled into the street in front of the Supreme Court, and late in the afternoon supporters traveled to Chaudhry's house in a long convoy of honking vehicles to congratulate him. Looking slightly disoriented by all the attention, Chaudhry briefly emerged but returned without speaking after waving to the crowd and eating a celebratory sweet.

Victory parties also broke out in other cities across the country. "Sadly enough, the judiciary has been a toothless institution all its life. But by today's decision, it has showed its teeth to the powerful institution of the military," said a jubilant Naqib Ahmad, 30, in the northwestern city of Peshawar. "I have never been so proud of being a lawyer as I feel today."

Even as the celebrations wore on into the night, the attacks that have shadowed Pakistan all week continued. A suicide bomber killed four people Friday at a checkpoint in North Waziristan, where the government is trying to revive a 10-month-old pact that disintegrated last weekend. Since insurgents broke the deal, Pakistan has been hit with daily strikes.

Chaudhry's supporters have been among the victims of recent violence. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a rally in Islamabad where the judge was expected to speak, killing 18. In May, more than 40 people were killed in Karachi at another pro-Chaudhry rally when his supporters came under attack by members of a party that is aligned with the government.

Special correspondent Imtiaz Ali in Peshawar contributed to this report.


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