US looks at plan to oust Musharraf
THE US has indicated for the first time that it might be willing to back plans by elite echelons of the military in Islamabad to oust Pervez Musharraf from power, as the Pakistani President was beset by major new difficulties over his attempts to sack the country's chief justice.
Reports yesterday quoting highly placed US diplomatic and intelligence officials - previously rusted on to the view that General Musharraf was an indispensable Western ally in the battle against terrorism - outlined a succession plan to replace him.
US officials told The New York Times the plan would see the Vice-Chief of the Army, Ahsan Saleem Hyat, take over from General Musharraf as head of the military and former banker Mohammedmian Soomro installed as president, with General Hyat wielding most of the power.
The report adds another dimension to the range of challenges bearing down on the embattled military ruler following his weekend sacking of chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, whom he appointed just over a year ago.
Thousands of lawyers clashed with baton-wielding riot police yesterday during a nationwide day of action against the sacking of the top judge. About 3000 lawyers wearing smart black suits and chanting "Down with Musharraf" dismantled barriers in an attempt to stage a sit-in outside the Lahore High Court building.
More than 40 lawyers and 15 police were injured in the clashes. Police repeatedly baton-charged the demonstrators, some of them senior members of the bar, arresting 25 people.