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By midnight last night, the Pakistani lawyers' "long march" was less than a couple of hundred miles from the capital and moving in fast. Around that time rumors started floating that the prime minister was about to address the nation. The buzz was that he was going to meet the marchers' demands and restore the deposed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chuadry, and other judges.
Crowds slowly started building outside the judge's house in Islamabad in anticipation. I got there a little after 1 a.m. and the atmosphere was electric. There were probably nearly one thousand people there when I arrived — a sea of flags of all sorts of colors.
In one corner a group of college students and human rights activists played national folk songs while one of them strummed on an electric guitar. Within an arms distance political workers and supporters of the Jamat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest Islamic party chanted “Allah-o-Akbar,” “Allah is Great.”
Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif’s supporters roared in support of the "Tiger of Punjab." The families with young children who stood at the periphery would join in the loud and more universal "Long Live Pakistan" chants. And then, of course, there were hundreds of lawyers chanting in support of Chuadry: "Chief: Your support is endless," they yelled, repeating a popular cry for the movement for his restoration that has been shouted during street marches over the past two years.
I went back there after lunch today and the place had turned into a proper carnival complete with floats, bands singing popular folk and rock songs, vendors selling buttons, flags, fresh coconut, ice cream — you name the flavor. There is a constant stream of lawyers and others gathered outside Chaudry's front gate waiting their turn to get in and shake hands with the judge, who will return to his position as the country's top judge on March 21st.
The events of last night have many Pakistanis euphoric. The return of the sacked judges seems to have signaled some sort of change to the many different kinds of Pakistanis from all over the country who had assembled at the top judge's front lawn last night. Some are calling it a "soft revolution."
Will this have an effect on Pakistani politics? And what does it mean for an America that is trying to strengthen democracy in the world's second largest Muslim country and an Islamic Republic, while fighting a war in neighboring Afghanistan? The coming months will begin to reveal some answers.