Sunday, January 20, 2008

Imprisoned at home..!!!

The judge's family has been locked in its house for more than 10 weeks.

The 8-year-old son is disabled and has difficulty walking.

His two teenage sisters are not allowed to go to school. Strangers often padlock the gates, and armed men roam the neighborhood.

"How mad they are," the 16-year-old daughter, Palwasha Iftikhar Chaudhry, wrote in an e-mail to a lawyer, referring to government officials who have kept the family detained.

The father, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, is the former chief justice of Pakistan, a man detained since a state of emergency was declared by President Pervez Musharraf on Nov. 3, still the object of the president's ire and watched constantly by police and the intelligence agencies.

"We are being treated as if we are militants, terrorists, extremists," said Palwasha Iftikhar Chaudhry in a rare telephone conversation from her house.

The judges' leafy enclave of 19 homes on a hill in Islamabad,

with a jogging track,

a children's park and a mosque,

remains locked off from the world -- security officers guarding the roads in and out.

Four former Supreme Court judges are still being held under a kind of neighborhood arrest: they can leave their homes but not their neighborhood.

Chaudhry and his family are being held under house arrest in their five-room home.

His daughter Palwasha, nicknamed "the commander" by lawyers helping the family on the outside, helps smuggle in mobile phones.

A phone number can usually only be used once or twice before the intelligence agencies somehow manage to scramble it, she said.

She said she has read one Harry Potter book more than 20 times since the crisis started, as she has had no other books.

As she spoke, her father's voice could be heard in the background, but he refused to come to the phone.

Palwasha said the call would be cut off immediately if he spoke.

Even so, the line went dead three times.

She said her father worried that the upcoming elections would be fraudulent without a neutral judiciary to help evaluate the fairness of the results.

"I just want to say to the international community, why aren't they being supportive of the chief justice and the other Supreme Court judges?" she asked. "They didn't do anything wrong."