LAHORE, Feb 20: Supporters of Aitzaz Ahsan, the detained president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, defied police restrictions and carried him on their shoulders outside his Zaman Park residence.

Talking to the media, Mr Ahsan reiterated his call for restoration of deposed judges by March 7. “Otherwise we will hold a long march and gather in Islamabad from all over the country,” he said.

People from different walks of life had gathered outside Mr Ahsan’s residence to show solidarity with the deposed judges and to demand his release. After holding a protest march, a number of lawyers and other activists entered Mr Ahsan’s residence and brought him out.

Mr Ahsan said that if the deposed judges were stopped from joining the march, the retired judges would take their place and accompany lawyers, civil society representatives and workers of political parties to Islamabad.

He said Justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed and other retired judges had agreed to join the march.

He said he had rejected the offer for his release in exchange of a commitment not to indulge in any political activity.

Answering a question about the sitting judges, Mr Ahsan said once the Supreme Court judges were restored they would take a decision on the matter.

Mr Ahsan said a two-thirds majority in parliament was not needed for restoration of the pre-emergency judiciary because the deposed judges could start performing their duty under an executive order.

He said lawyers would not settle for anything less than the reinstatement of deposed judges and they were ready to negotiate with all political parties for the purpose. “But I want to make one thing clear. That we have a one-point agenda: restoration of all deposed judges,” he added.

He said the sitting judges did not have the legitimacy to endorse the imposition of emergency by President Musharraf because they had benefited directly from the action. “How can the apex court empower someone to introduce amendment to the Constitution when it did not have such a power itself?”

He said the PPP could not ignore the issue of reviving the pre-emergency judiciary because Benazir Bhutto herself had declared Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry as the “real” chief justice of Pakistan.

Commenting on election results, Mr Ahsan said that coalition governments would be formed at the centre and in provinces, except in Sindh, and anti-Musharraf forces would forge an alliance.

He said he was not a candidate for the post of prime minister because he believed that the next prime minister should be from Sindh.

He said Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who enjoyed the trust of Benazir Bhutto, was the most suitable candidate for the premier’s slot.