[JURIST] Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile] announced Monday that the government will reinstate deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] in response to recent protests by members of the Pakistan lawyers' movement [NYT backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and opposition politicians and supporters. In a televised address, Gilani announced that Chaudhry and other deposed judges will be reinstated [Daily Times report] March 21, when the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court retires. Gilani ordered government officials to release [Dawn report] anyone arrested during the past week's so-called "long march" [JURIST reports], which began Thursday. Gilani also announced that the government would file a petition to reverse [Jang News report] the recent Supreme Court ruling that barred [JURIST report] opposition leader and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from holding elected office based on a past criminal conviction. Finally, Gilani lifted a ban on public demonstrations.
Reports surfaced late Sunday that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) [party website], had agreed to reinstate Chaudhry and other judges ousted by Zardari's predecessor Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive] in November 2007 after his declaration of emergency rule. Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) [party website] have actively campaigned [JURIST report] for Chaudhry's reinstatement, leading a similar "long march" last summer. Chaudhry has always maintained that he is still chief justice [JURIST report] under the Pakistani constitution [text].