Thousands of Pakistani activists and lawyers gathered in major cities Monday to kick off a series of protests aimed at pressuring the new government to restore judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf.

The so-called “Long March” is expected to culminate in a rally and prolonged sit-in at the capital, Islamabad, later in the week — another headache for the 2-month-old government, already struggling with Islamic militancy and serious economic problems.