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It's the Judiciary, Stupid

Pervez Musharraf fell from power last year, but many here say the old order has survived. Nawaz Sharif, for example, the major opposition leader, said in a public rally last week that President Asif Ali Zardari is "possessed" by the spirit of Musharraf. And so less than six months after he became President, Zardari is faced with a street movement of the kind that Musharraf faced in his eighth year.

A "Long March" began in different locations all over this country of nearly 170 million people today. The marchers plan to converge on Islamabad on the 16th.

What do these protestors want? On paper the Long March is demanding that the judicial system be restored to what it was before Pervez Musharraf sacked judges and packed the courts with his loyalists towards the tail end of his rule. (Though the new government had promised on the election trail to bring the old judges back, it didn't exactly follow through.) But it seems the marchers also want President Zardari out.

Islamabad is gearing up to welcome marchers from across the country in the coming days and I followed a small protest rally in the capital which passed through one of the poshest market places in the capital urging people to take to the streets on the 16th. "The ocean becomes one drop at a time," I heard one older woman tell a group of young boys. Here are a couple of photos.



President Ali Zardari was never too popular to start with and he has survived so far with careful and calculated political maneuvering. But faced with some good old street politics he's had to rely on a good old crackdown to survive.

Starting yesterday, authorities started arresting hundreds of political workers, lawyers and social activists involved in planning the Long March.

But that, too, is from President Musharraf's game book. And it didn't help him much. Will President Zaradri fare much better? This will start to become clearer on the 16th.