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Pak SC extends stay on proceedings against Chaudhry
K J M Varma, Islamabad, May 15 (PTI) The stay on proceedings before a Council of top judges in Pakistan looking into charges that the suspended Chief Justice misused his power was extended today, even as President Pervez Musharraf asserted he was ready to accept whatever verdict was given

The extension was granted till further orders by a 13-member full bench of Pakistan Supreme Court while formally commencing hearing of the petition of Iftikhar M Chaudhry challenging the Presidential reference of allegations against him.

The hearing itself commenced after days of legal wrangling and disruptions. An earlier bench had granted the stay of proceedings before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), regarded as a major victory for Chaudhry.

The full court granted the extension after Chaudhry's counsel Aitzaz Ahsan sought it and the government counsel not opposing it.

Musharraf at a meeting with the leaders and parliamentarians of the ruling alliance reposed his faith in supreme court to resolve the dispute.

The meeting was convened to discuss the fallout of the three-day violence of Karachi city which rattled both federal and provincial Sindh governments.

Musharraf said he has full faith and confidence in whatever decision taken by the supreme court on Chaudhry's issue but he would not let the issue to be politicised by the opposition parties, ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q, (PML-Q) Secretary General, Mushahid Hussain told media after the meeting.

He also said that democratic process was on track and the general elections due this year would be held on schedule.

Musharraf also assured a proper inquiry into the murder of Supreme Court Additional Registrar Hamaad Raza here yesterday, which his family termed as a targeted killing, though the police say it was a dacoity-cum-murder. Media reports here said Raza was being pressurised to depose against Chaudhry.

During his arguments today, Chaudhry's defence counsel Ahsan also said the murder was a "targeted killing" and requested the court to take appropriate action.

He told the court that government agencies were pressurising Raza, a close associate of Chaudhry, to provide information regarding alleged allotment of plots to the Chief Justice. Raza's family says he was picked up twice by the intelligence agencies for interrogation after Chaudhry's suspension.

Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday, who was presiding over the bench, said, "We appreciate the integrity and dedication of the young officer. The Supreme Court has already taken suo-motu notice of this matter. All the judges have visited the house of Hamad Raza yesterday to condole his death."

Hussain quoted Musharraf as saying that he was perturbed by the murder and would soon talk to Raza's father. The President promised to bring the culprits to book, he said.

Meanwhile, a senior police officer, who reportedly wanted to depose as a witness in favour of the suspended Chief Justice, was arrested in a kidnapping case.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mirpurkhas, Saleemullah Khan was arrested yesterday in a case relating to the kidnapping of a Hindu family, daily Dawn reported.

In today's meeting, attended among others by Muthahida Quami Movement that faced strong criticism from opposition parties and lawyers for the violence and its dogged resistance to let Chaudhry attend the convention of lawyers in Karachi on May 12, Musharraf said inquiry was underway to determine who perpetrated the crisis and the culprits would be punished.

Chaudhry returned to Islamabad after being stuck in the Karachi airport for over 12 hours.

Under fire for the deadly violence in Karachi, the MQM has accused the opposition of hatching a conspiracy to disrupt peace in the commerical hub and creating political instability in the country.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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