Authorities said Tuesday they have begun releasing some of the thousands of opposition supporters detained since emergency rule was imposed earlier this month, while Pakistan's military leader departed for a visit to Saudi Arabia.
The releases came hours after judges hand-picked by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf quashed legal challenges to his disputed re-election as president. The decision enraged his most bitter opponents, but others said it could lead to an easing of restrictions and make it easier for politicians to campaign for Jan. 8 parliamentary elections.
Most of the few hundred people set free overnight were lawyers and ordinary opposition supporters. Many high-ranking party activists and leaders, such as former cricket star Imran Khan, remained in prison. Khan began a hunger strike Monday to protest emergency rule.
In the southern province of Sindh, authorities released 300 people, including lawyers, human rights activists and supporters of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, one of Musharraf's chief rivals.
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