LAHORE, May 18: Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Aitzaz Ahsan has pulled out of the electoral race to save the Pakistan People’s Party from an embarrassing situation because at around the time of the coming by-election he will be leading the lawyers’ long march and movement for reinstatement of the deposed judges.

Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, Mr Ahsan said he had informed Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday that he was withdrawing his application for the PPP ticket for the by-election.

The SCBA chief said he wanted to concentrate on making the long march a success.

He said the long march would be a decisive factor in the struggle launched by the lawyers 14 months ago and it needed his full-time devotion.

The SCBA president announced that the long march would begin from Multan on June 10.

After attending gatherings of Sahiwal and Okara bars, the caravan of judges and lawyers will move to Lahore. The next day it would proceed to Islamabad via Gujranwala, Gujrat and Jhelum, he said, adding that the same day another caravan of lawyers would converge on Islamabad from Peshawar.

“The lawyers will go to parliament which is at the centre of the current controversy.”

A lawyers’ meeting held here on Saturday had expressed confidence in the leadership of Mr Ahsan and left the decision about taking part in the by-election to him.“Since all arrangements for the long march are to be made and contesting the by-election may also put the PPP in an awkward position, it is better to withdraw from the electoral race and concentrate on the lawyers’ movement,” he said.

He said that people must translate their love for deposed Chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry into action.

Mr Ahsan appealed to all ‘conscious segments’ of the society, including students, traders, members of the civil society, political workers, professionals and the media, to join the struggle for independent judiciary. It was the “only way to safeguard the future of the nation,” he insisted.

He said the presidency was continuing to hatch conspiracies against democracy and one proof of this was that the attorney-general had not been changed.

Mr Ahsan said the lawyers would call off the long march if the judges were reinstated before June 10.

In reply to a question, he said the decisions of the Supreme Court presided over by Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar could be covered under the ‘de facto doctrine’ after the reinstatement of the deposed judges. He said he did not know whether the deposed judges would take up the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) after their reinstatement.

Mr Ahsan conceded that he had differences with the PPP co-chairman on the issue of the judiciary but refused to provide details.

When asked if the lawyers intended to picket the General Headquarters or parliament at the end of their long march, Mr Ahsan said the army did not have any role in the current crisis and the lawyers were convinced about the neutrality of Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Kayani.

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