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Pakistan bans program over sacking of chief justice

Story Highlights

• Other shows likely to be banned as well, senior government sources told CNN
• Musharraf suspended chief justice last week, placed him under house arrest
• The move has triggered protests by lawyers in several cities
• Chaudhry has been asserting judicial independence in recent cases
From Syed Mohsin Naqvi
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LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Pakistani government Thursday banned a leading prime-time television program because of negative coverage of President Pervez Musharraf's fight with Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, senior government sources told CNN.

Kamran Khan, host of "The Kamran Kahn Show" on Geo TV, told CNN he had been banned from doing his show as of Thursday. Other shows are likely to be banned as well, the senior government sources told CNN.

The news appears to coincide with a promise by Musharraf not to interfere in the disciplinary hearing on Chaudhry's case, as The Associated Press reported.

On Thursday, Musharraf said he would accept any verdict on Chaudhry's case, which could include his sacking, AP reported.

"I promise to you that the judiciary will take (a) decision. We do not need to interfere in this," AP quoted Musharraf as saying at a public meeting in Gujranwala Thursday.

Musharraf suspended the chief justice last week and placed him under house arrest, outraging Pakistanis and launching street protests by lawyers in many Pakistani cities.

Chaudhry is to appear in court Friday, and police began a crackdown on Thursday ahead of the hearing. Dozens of opposition workers and prominent lawyers were arrested Thursday night in various cities of Pakistan. In Islamabad, more than six members of the parliaments also have been picked up, police sources told CNN.

Musharraf's critics accuse him of intimidating the judiciary ahead of crucial elections and a vote in parliament to extend his rule later this year.

The U.S. is concerned about Chaudhry's arrest and alleged maltreatment, and U.S. and Pakistani officials have discussed the issue, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Under Pakistan's constitution, Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup more than seven years ago, has to step down as army chief unless he gets the backing of the Supreme Court, headed by Chaudhry.

The charges against Chaudhry have not been revealed, and Pakistan's government has refused to comment on the case. Chaudhry said he is being accused of misusing his powers.

Musharraf appointed Chaudhry in 2005, but the chief justice recently started asserting his judicial independence in a number of cases involving the disappearance of terror suspects and human-rights activists.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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