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ABBOTTABAD, June 2: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was given an unprecedented welcome when he reached the Abbottabad Bar Club, the main venue of the lawyers’ convention, after a journey of 14 and a half hours from Islamabad.

He was received at the club by the Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court Justice, Mr Justice Tariq Pervez, along with judges of the Peshawar High Court, Abbottabad Circuit bench.

More than 5000 lawyers from all over the country, including former judges, were present at the venue to welcome the chief justice, while outside a mammoth crowd was waiting for the chief justice’s speech which had not started till our going to press.

Senior lawyers Ali Ahmed Kurd and Hamid Khan had delivered their speeches by 1.30am while Qazi Mohammad Anwar, Munir A. Malick, Aitzaz Ahsan and the chief justice were waiting for their turn.

In his speech, Ali Ahmed Kurd claimed that President Pervez Musharraf had used army generals’ conference for political purposes which was unfair.

He pledged that the struggle of lawyers would continue till the judiciary became independent.

In his speech, Hamid Khan said the lawyers’ struggle was not against any institution of the state, including the army, but it was against political use of the army uniform, and for restoration of independence of the judiciary.

Shad Mohamad Khan, President of the PHC Bar Asssociation, Abbottabad circuit bench, presented the welcome address.

Earlier, the chief justice’s procession was warmly welcomed at different places on his way to Abbottabad. Justice Iftikhar was to address the convention at 2pm, but it took him over 14 hours to travel the 118km distance from Islamabad to the city. The journey normally takes just two hours.

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had left for Abbottabad from Islamabad at 8:30am and due to imposition of section 144 in the capital, he was received by lawyers and workers of different political parties at Tanoli.

The procession first stopped at Taxila and then at Hasanabdal, where lawyers and political workers from the NWFP joined it.

The next stopover was at Panian (Chari Kass), the border between Punjab and the NWFP, where activists of the ANP, PPP and the PML-N welcomed the CJP. In Haripur, the chief justice stayed briefly to attend a reception organised by the District Bar Association and have lunch.

The procession was again halted by an uncontrollable crowd at Baldher, Chamba Bridge.

The PML-N, ANP, PPP, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, Khaksar Tehrik, Omer Asghar Khan Foundation and the Tehrik-i-Istaqlal had set up reception camps at Abbottabad.

Office-bearers and lawyers from almost all district bar associations of the NWFP and Punjab attended the convention.

TAXILA: Thousands of people accorded a warm welcome to the chief justice in Taxila and Hasanabdal.

They raised slogans in support of independence of the judiciary and the chief justice, and against President Pervez Musharraf and the government.

Speaking at the Taxila Bar Association, Aitzaz Ahsan Chaudhry, counsel for the chief justice, said the people’s enthusiasm was a referendum against the government. He said the struggle was for restoring the credibility of state institutions, supremacy of the law and independence of the judiciary.

MURREE: Lawyers from Murree, led by Murree Bar Association president Nazir Abbasi, went to Abbottabad via Galyat to attend the function.

Before their departure, Mr Abbasi told reporters it was shocking for the lawyers’ community to hear that the military regime had imposed restrictions on the media coverage of the CJ issue.