Pakistani left leader Farooq Tariq released

Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) general secretary Farooq Tariq was released from detention in the early hours of May 7. Tariq and more than 1000 others were rounded up the previous Friday in a failed attempt by the government of General Pervez Musharraf to weaken a mass reception for a visit by suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to Lahore. Chaudhry was suspended for being too independent of the Mushurraf regime and too respectful of the rule of law.

Tens of thousands turned out all along the way from Islamabad to Lahore, and what was normally a four-hour drive became a 24-hour cavalcade for democracy.

Tariq told Green Left Weekly that Punjab province's police chief had issued a three-month detention order against him. It was to be served in one of the most notorious jails, Mianwali, around 400 kilometres from Lahore.

The police chief "wanted me to stop agitation against the military regime", Tariq said. "I plainly refused and told him that the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has taken up my case." Tariq called for the police chief's resignation, as he had committed an "illegal act by taking me into custody".

After the LPP had announced nationwide demonstrations, a flood of protest letters had been sent and "an SMS campaign that sent non-stop messages of protest", Tariq was released.

"In Lahore alone, around 935 were arrested. Most of them have been released but about 50 are still in jails", said Tariq.

Tariq has pursued a case of illegal arrest against the police and on May 10 a judge issued notices to the three most senior police officers to come to court on May 17 to explain the reasons for Tariq's arrest.

On May 12, thousands are expected to welcome Chaudhry in Karachi when he is scheduled to address the Karachi Bar Association. The Musharraf regime is planning counter-rallies, booking out most public transport to bring public sector employees, who are being forced to join the counter-rallies or risk losing their jobs.

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