ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — To thunderous applause from fellow lawmakers and a packed visitors gallery, the newly chosen prime minister of Pakistan on Monday immediately released the judges detained by President Pervez Musharraf when he imposed emergency rule last year.
In a wildly ebullient parliamentary session with a heavy anti-Musharraf mood, the new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, also said he would seek a formal U.N. inquiry into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister killed after a speech on Dec. 27.
"Our slain leader Benazir Bhutto sacrificed her life for the cause of democracy, and now it is our responsibility to strengthen the democratic institutions in line with the aspirations of common people," said Gilani, a member of the Pakistan People's Party.
Gilani, 55, took his first actions as prime minister after he was officially chosen by an overwhelming majority of legislators in the 342-seat lower house of Parliament. He will lead a coalition of political parties opposed to the rule of Musharraf, the former general who came to power in a military coup nine years ago and is considered an important U.S. ally in the war against terror.
Public sentiment in Pakistan has turned sharply and steadily against Musharraf since he tried to dismiss Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the chief justice of the supreme court, last fall.
Gilani will formally take the oath from Musharraf today.
In a sign that the new Parliament will assert itself and reverse Musharraf's policies, Gilani made his first act freeing the detained judges.
The new governing coalition had pledged to reinstate Chaudhry and 61 other dismissed judges within 30 days of taking office.
Later in the evening, Chaudhry emerged on the balcony of his house in Islamabad, his first public appearance since being put under house arrest in November.
"I and my colleagues don't have the words to thank you for the way you have struggled in the past four and a half months," he told the large throng gathered.