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Pakistan's courts locked down; Bhutto in Islamabad

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: "I don't think we should give time" to restore democracy, Bhutto says
  • Pakistan police, lawyers clash in Islamabad on Tuesday
  • Thousands of the nation's attorneys are in jails
  • Cell phone service in Islamabad fails; news outlets shut down
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Baton-wielding police fought with lawyers outside courthouses in Islamabad and Lahore again Tuesday, arresting dozens more as they enforced Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's crackdown on judicial activism.

Three days after Musharraf suspended the constitution and declared a state of emergency, Pakistan's judicial system is in lockdown, with thousands of lawyers jailed and many judges detained in their homes.

Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto arrived in Islamabad from Karachi on Tuesday for meetings with other opposition leaders about how to respond to Musharraf's declaration.

"I don't think we have time, and I don't think we should give time," she told reporters. "I think we should all come down as strongly as we can for the restoration of democracy."

In a telephone call, former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry -- fired by Musharraf on Saturday -- urged a gathering of lawyers to go to "every corner of Pakistan and give the message that this is the time to sacrifice." Video Watch police club and kick lawyers »

Asked if he had a message for Musharraf, he told CNN International, "He should restore the judiciary, which was working independently in this country for the strengthening of the institution of democracy."

Musharraf's declaration noted a "visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks" and it blamed a judiciary that was "at cross purposes" with his government's efforts "to control this menace."

Opposition leaders, however, suggested the judicial activism Musharraf was really targeting was an expected Supreme Court ruling that would bar him from another term as Pakistan's president.

About 3,000 Pakistani lawyers, rounded up since Saturday, sit in jails across the country with no courts operating to which they can appeal for release. Pakistan has an estimated 12,000 lawyers.

Police earned cash bonuses for beating and arresting hundreds of lawyers Monday who had gathered outside of Lahore's courthouse, police sources said.

Any lawyer who attempted to enter the Lahore or Islamabad courthouse Tuesday was immediately arrested, witnesses said. Some were grabbed by police as they walked toward the court, sources said.

CNN's Zain Verjee said the lawyers were charged with terrorism offenses, and human rights workers and journalists were also arrested.

In addition, television news channels -- including CNN and the BBC -- were taken off the air, Verjee said.

Journalists were ordered not to criticize Musharraf, other senior members of government or army officials, she said. Penalties included fines and possible jail sentences of up to three years.

Security forces and barriers were visible along the road leading from the airport to the capital, with troops in place around hotels and the residences of the prime minister and the president, Verjee said.

"Don't be afraid of anything," Chaudhry told the lawyers gathered in Islamabad. "God will help us and the day will come when you'll see the constitution supreme and no dictatorship for a long time."

Chaudhry's remarks were interrupted when Islamabad's cell phone system suddenly died. There has been no way to confirm the disruption was planned by police.

Chaudhry has been unable to leave his home since it was surrounded by soldiers Saturday night. His house arrest prevents Chaudhry from participating in rallies with lawyers, something he did last March when he was previously sacked by Musharraf.

Chaudhry, who was reinstated to the court in July, has led key rulings that have weakened Musharraf's grip on power.

Musharraf defends actions

Despite Tuesday's arrests, the day has been less eventful than Monday, when Pakistani security forces used tear gas and batons on people demonstrating against Musharraf's declaration.

Washington and London are reviewing their aid packages to Pakistan in light of the state of emergency, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called "highly regrettable."

But a senior U.S. administration official said that the issue of aid is "a card that has to be played fairly carefully" and that the White House wanted to see what transpires in Pakistan over the next few days before making any kind of decision.

"President Musharraf is the leader of his country -- but, in our judgment, he's made a mistake," the official said.

Earlier, Bush said he had asked Rice to call Musharraf to deliver the White House's views.

"I asked the secretary to call to convey this message: that we expect there to be elections as soon as possible and that the president should remove his military uniform," he said. "Previous to his declaration, we made it clear that these emergency measures would undermine democracy."

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said that the declaration of a state of emergency was intended neither to delay elections in mid-January nor to slow the democratic process.

Instead, it was primarily intended "to address the extraordinary security situation prevailing in the country."

Pakistan's permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram, told Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the state of emergency is limited and that governance is complying as much as possible with the constitution, a U.N. news release said.

An attorney for Musharraf and the chief author of the constitution, Ahmed Raza Kasuri, called Tuesday for judicial restraint.

"What was happening was the government was arresting the terrorists," he told CNNI. "The courts, dealing in judicial activism, were releasing the terrorists."


He said Musharraf's moves had the backing of the "vast majority" who have not taken to the streets, and he predicted the crisis will soon ease.

"You just have to just wait for a few days and everything will be all right," he said. "The whole exercise has been done with the view to control terrorism in Pakistan and the region around." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Mohsin Naqvi in Lahore contributed to this report.

All About Pervez MusharrafPakistanBenazir BhuttoNawaz Sharif

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