Sharif calls off Pakistan \’long march\’ protest

Pakistan\’s main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif said he had agreed to call off a mass protest march after the government decided to reinstate the deposed chief justice.

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“We are now calling off this long march,” he said from inside his SUV, showered with pink rose petals and stranded in a sea of jubilant supporters in the central city of Gujranwala.

He said the decision had been taken following discussions with lawyers and leaders of allied political parties, such as cricket hero Imran Khan.

“Today the nation has received very happy news. We have said that we will restore the judges and the independent judiciary and by the grace of Allah we have achieved it,” he said.

“Very soon we will play our role in implementing real democracy in this country,” he added.

Pakistan reinstates sacked top judge

The announcement came after Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that the government had decided to reinstate the country\’s supreme court chief justice in a bid to end political turmoil.

“I announce today that Iftikhar Chaudhry and all other deposed judges will be reinstated from March 21,” Mr Gilani said in a televised address to the nation.

The current supreme court chief justice will retire on that date, allowing Chaudhry to take over, the premier said.

He directed provincial governments to release all those arrested during a stringent government clampdown aimed at foiling a so-called long march organised by lawyers and political activists, due to reach Islamabad on Monday.

He also immediately lifted section 144, a 19th century British law, put into effect in the capital and the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and North West Frontier Province outlawing public demonstrations.

“I order all the provincial governments to release political workers, lawyers and all those arrested during the long march,” he said.

“I want to congratulate the nation. Let us celebrate this with dignity.” Jubiliant lawyers, activists and political opponents danced in the streets in joy, waving party flags and punching the air in delight at exacting the “victory” from the government.

“This was the promise made by our late leader Benazir Bhutto that the chief justice will be restored and I had also made the promise after I took over as prime minister,” said Mr Gilani.

“I think the time has come to fulfil this promise, so I have advised the president and he has agreed to reinstate chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry from March 21,” Mr Gilani added.