LAHORE, May 6: Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said on Sunday that history showed that nations and states could not survive under dictatorship.

The chief justice, whose motorcade took 25 hours to reach the Lahore High Court from Islamabad, was accorded an unprecedented welcome by lawyers, political and rights activists and serving and retired judges of superior and subordinate courts.

“The nations and states based on dictatorship, instead of supremacy of constitution, rule of law and protection of basic human rights are destroyed. There is no more concept of dictatorship. These all are bitter lessons of history, and the nations which do not learn from history and repeat mistakes have to pay the price,” Justice Chaudhry said in his address to a reception hosted for him by the Lahore High Court Bar Association.

Seventeen serving and 15 retired judges of the Lahore High Court, three former judges of the Supreme Court and some serving and retired judges of subordinate courts were among thousands of lawyers and activists who greeted Justice Chaudhry in the parking compound of the high court.

“Today, I would mention specially the son of the soil whose name is Justice Jawad S. Khawaja,” the chief justice said after thanking all the serving and former judges in his opening remarks.

Justice Khawaja of the LHC had tendered his resignation in protest against the suspension of Mr Chaudhry. Organisers of the reception also seated Mr Khwaja among the serving judges despite his repeated refusal to do so.

After entering the city at Ravi Bridge at 4:15am, it took over four hours for his caravan to reach the reception venue at 8:30am. As the caravan proceeded to the venue, thousands of lawyers and political and rights activists joined it, and at times made it difficult for it to move ahead.

Everybody was seen trying to get close to the vehicle of the chief justice, and chanting slogans in his favour and against President Gen Pervez Musharraf. People in long queues would also shower rose petals on the motorcade amid slogans of “Go Musharraf Go”.

“Sometime we take some such decisions which put to test the friends like you and ourselves as well. But Allah Almighty is with us. Allah Almighty gives us courage to bear it and pass through it successfully," Justice Chaudhry said while making an indirect reference to his ‘decision’ that put him in the current situation. He would not elaborate the decision.

“As far as the reference against me is concerned, I do not talk about it, but I would like to mention those who for the sake of rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution sustained injuries. We are law-abiding people and we understand law. I hope that all such people would get justice from courts,” he said, adding that he would also like to thank those who had been braving heat for me, including activists of political parties and civil society, although “I have nothing to do with politics ever”.

The scheduled time for the arrival of the chief justice was 4pm on Saturday, and lawyers and activists of the PPP, PML-N, MMA, PTI, JUP, Khaksar Tehrik and Labour Party Pakistan had gathered outside the high court since Saturday noon.

Major political parties had also set up camps on The Mall, with hundreds of banners and placards inscribed with their party slogans.

With every passing moment, the number of activists and lawyers kept on soaring, and they waited all night for the guest with more and more enthusiasm and fervour.

Leaders of the political parties, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Syeda Abida Husain, Fakhar Imam, Jehangir Badar, Naheed Khan, Khwaja Saad Rafiq and Liaquat Baloch, also remained there for hours. “It is very much visible that it is time for a change,” said Mr Baloch and Ms Naheed Khan.

Justice Iftikhar also recalled some of the steps he had taken during his tenure in the office and said: “There are two kinds of people in Pakistan. First those who consider themselves above the law and the second those who have no idea as to where from the justice is sought for. In a situation like this, I took responsibility on my shoulders and set up a cell in the Supreme Court which solved thousands of cases. During my tenure, we disposed of over 75 per cent of pending cases.”

He said the people who considered themselves above the law were brought to book, and ways like suo motu were taken up to redress those who had no idea as to from where they could seek justice.

Serving judges of the LHC who attended the reception included Justice Khwaja Mohammad Sharif, Justice Syed Zahid Husain, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Mian Saqib Nisar, Mian Najamuzzaman, Justice Mulvi Anwarul Haq, Justice Sheikh Sahir Ali, Justice Saeed Akhtar, Justice Chaudhry Ejaz, Justice Sardar Mohammad Aslam, Justice Khalid Alvi, Justice Mian Hamid Farooq, Justice Sheikh Javed Sarfraz, Justice Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice M.A. Shahid Saddiqi and Justice Jehangir Arshad.