Dual office case: Court advises president to relinquish political office

Published: May 12, 2011
Court issues 35-page verdict on the case of the president's dual offices.PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Court issues 35-page verdict on the case of the president's dual offices.PHOTO: AFP/FILE


The Lahore High Court on Thursday ruled on a petition that it “expected” President Asif Ali Zardari to suspend all his political activities on the grounds that these activities were inconsistent with the neutrality and independence of the presidential office.

The petition was filed by the Pakistan Lawyers Forum (PLF) through Advocate AK Dogar in 2009 on the dual offices of the president. In March, the court had reserved its judgment on the same case.

This time around a four-member bench headed by Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry issued the 33-page judgment in reference to a Supreme Court verdict on the Nawaz Sharif vs President of Pakistan (PLD 1993 SC) case, which held that the duties and functions of the presidential office are to be discharged with neutrality and impartiality.

The bench said “it is expected that the president of Pakistan will disassociate himself from political office at the earliest” and will “cease the use of the premises of the presidency for the purposes and political meetings of his party.”

It declared that the president’s participation in party decisions was “extraneous to the duties and functions of his high constitutional office”.

Citing a newspaper report, the bench held that there is “ample evidence that the meetings of the party in government, of which the president is a co-chairperson, are regularly held in the presidency.”

In its written order, the court clarified that it was not a case for disqualification of the president, nor is it a case for prohibitory order because the president’s activities are not barred under law.

It also pointed out that when “the highest office of the state becomes controversial” the unity of the state begins to erode.

The bench drew a distinction between the functions and duties of presidential office and that of political office, noting that the latter stemmed from the “personal and private association of the president with his political party”. These actions therefore do not enjoy immunity from the judicial process and call for judicial intervention to enforce the constitution, the court said in its ruling.

The president cannot, for instance, be held responsible for any poor political decision made by the government. Under Article 48 (1) of the constitution, the president is shielded from any political backlash since it is the executive alone that is made accountable for its decisions.

Another constitutional clause (Article 218 ) allows the president to participate in the affairs of a political party and grant immunity to the holder of the office.

Referring to another civil miscellaneous application of the petitioner seeking disqualification of the president, the bench held, “As visualised in Article 47 of the constitution recourse of disqualification is available only with parliament in its joint session and the court shall not by collateral means transgress that constitutional limitation.”

The court further said it was aware that the high office of the president enjoys immunity from certain legal proceedings. On this note, the bench disposed the matter.

Speaking to journalists after the hearing, Dogar said he would to file a contempt-of-court petition if the president does not relinquish his political office.

He also claimed that the judgment had directed the president to give up his political office by Thursday evening.

Reacting to the judgment, former federal law minister Babar Awan said there is no law in Pakistan which restricts the president from participating in politics. He cited Article 17 of the constitution and said that every citizen of Pakistan has the right to take part in politics.

Parliament has three components: the National Assembly, the Senate and the presidency. Both houses are political and it will be the first time in the world that the third part is not allowed to do politics, Awan said. According to him, the constitution does not define politics.

Meanwhile, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Asma Jahangir, said: “Although I have not read the judgment, according to my perception it is not appropriate to ask the president what to do and what not to.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (38)

  • May 12, 2011 - 1:48PM

    Better late than never!Recommend

  • Adnan Ali
    May 12, 2011 - 1:53PM

    An expected decision as it is clearly the intention of the constitution. Also, many misgivings about the President’s conduct are due to his active and biased participation in politics.

    Do not hope for any positive step on this decision by Mr. Zardari. It will be scorned, laughed at and pushed aside like the decisions made by the superior courts since he has come to office.Recommend

  • A J Khan
    May 12, 2011 - 1:59PM

    Zardari was otherwise not contributing much awareness and knowledge to the PPP meetings. Lahore High Court has done a favour to the core committee and Central Executive Committee of PPP.
    Instead Jahangir Badar will speak in his Oxford English as student of politics. Recommend

  • SK
    May 12, 2011 - 2:10PM

    if someone has any high hopes, please forget about any good coming out- bilawal will be taking charge even if he leavesRecommend

  • Hassan Naqvi
    May 12, 2011 - 2:20PM

    PPP will take the case in Supreme Court, and before the case is finalized the tenure of the current Govt. will end. Justice delayed is justice denied.Recommend

  • mANI
    May 12, 2011 - 2:20PM

    Good decision by court. Will they obey the order of the court?Recommend

  • Radi Raz
    May 12, 2011 - 2:20PM

    It took long enough but kudos to the courts.
    Lets see what the PPP maestros of malintent do to avoid this.Recommend

  • Me
    May 12, 2011 - 2:30PM

    So what else would he do in the President House?Recommend

  • Ahsan Raza
    May 12, 2011 - 2:37PM

    why does it always take soo long for the courts to come up with something of that sort ?
    it is good that the verdict is out , it should be implemented as soon as possible , if Law exists at all in Pakistan !Recommend

  • Taymour Khan
    May 12, 2011 - 2:58PM

    Waah!!! yet another good decision by the courts. but hwo cares…Recommend

  • Gill
    May 12, 2011 - 3:30PM

    I don’t care who would replace AZ, but the spirit of the law should be followed…Recommend

  • Mudassar Salim
    May 12, 2011 - 3:47PM

    Dear Sir

    It is a strange decision really and it has come from Lahore High Court which has a great repute of handing down such decisions whenever the defendant is PPP. In a political system where the President is elected by all the elected reresentatives of the whole country, it is unthinkable and impractical that we can have a President who is not political in his outlook. I do not know from which constitution this prohibition has been read? The constitution of Pakistan certainly do not put such restrictions for sure.

    P/S: I am sorry for not saying that it is yet another historical decision of our independent judiciary. I say it now..

    Mudassar Salim
    Peshawar Recommend

  • May 12, 2011 - 3:59PM

    good comments Recommend

  • Cheeko Beeko
    May 12, 2011 - 4:16PM

    I congratulate the bench of Lahore High Court on giving verdict that President cannot hold two offices viz. the government as well political at the same time.

    I am unable to understand as why all kind of nonsense if going on in Pakistan.

    The rule is that any government servant cannot participate in any political activity no matter if he is a grade I officer or he is Prime Minister or President of Pakistan.

    When a political figure becomes a government servant he automatically becomes public servant and therefore he cannot hold political office of his political party.

    The rule should not be restricted only for the President or the Prime Minister but it should be enforced all over the country.

    Similarly, all Ministers whether federal or provincial cannot hold any political position in the respective political party simultaneously.

    PPP should organise its structure and ask its Ministers and Advisors either to remain Ministers or Advisors or hold the political office.

    Any Federal or Provincial Minister or even an Advisor who is drawing salary from the federal or provincial government cannot simultaneously hold political office and should not be allowed to hold rallies or even deliver a political speech at any forum.

    This nonsense should be stopped forthwith.

    Chief Justice of Pakistan should deliver a verdict so that any political figure when becomes Federal or Provincial Minister should be banned holding political position in the party and should not be seen in the political rallies or should not even attend such meetings.

    PPP should appoint party’s official spokesperson at the Federal and Provincial levels in the party but they should not hold official position in the government. Recommend

  • Yggr
    May 12, 2011 - 4:34PM

    Dual Office khapayRecommend

  • Nalasra
    May 12, 2011 - 5:22PM

    There is no meaning of LHC orders in Pakistan because in this country Courts are not run by the judges instead they are governed and ordered by the bureaucrats and AZ ever means to get all from A-Z so that’s why no appreciation to that decision until it is really enforced.
    May ALLAH protect this country from blunders.Recommend

  • The patriot
    May 12, 2011 - 5:36PM

    Mudasar Salim
    Learn to think like Pakistani other then JIALA.
    The PatriotRecommend

  • Furqan
    May 12, 2011 - 5:44PM

    Wait didn’t Rafiq Tarar hold dual office? Wasn’t he affiliated with a Political party while being President of the Country? What about Mushy? COAS and President+ Chief Executive? Selective Justice only for the Pakistan Peoples Party?Recommend

  • May 12, 2011 - 5:46PM

    RAY OF HOPE; The decision made by the Hon’ble High Court is not highly appreciatable but also is a ray of hope. I am conscious of the fact that even previously the higher judiciary including August Supreme Court of Pakistan have made so many decisions including the decision of NRO and out of whom many are still to be implemented but the fact remains that these are decisons of the court and untill and unless the same are in the field, the same will be implemented upon. If the government fails to implement the same, it would tantamount to abuse of process of courts and also amounts a slur on the government. This decision is highly appreciatable. If we put a glance over the tenure of PPP government, we may say here that the President’s office is being used as a political office and not a sign of federation. Mr.Zardar must obey this decision, the time is running very fast. Our country is facing the agony of various difficulties as such not only our poltical leadership but also highups must revise their ambitions. There is no room to comment upon the orders of the high court. Anyhow, if aggrieved, this decision can at the most be challenged before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. I hope if challenged, the Supreme Court may decide the matter at the earliest and the Supreme court has got the authority to dismiss the same even in limine. Recommend

  • Muhamamd Imran Qureshi
    May 12, 2011 - 5:58PM

    Hummm. I think that in our country the chapters are opened which dont need to be. We completely forget the episodes of our tragic issues and right after that our attentions are pulled towards some other topic or direction. The country is also in the state of lawlessness which is creating countless troubles for the needy one. The poor are the thinking how to tangle the sky-rocketing prices of commodities while in the other hand the discussion is running of having two offices of the President. This is a strange situation that can not be named. If you can, please do it not for me but the entire world…Recommend

  • billo
    May 12, 2011 - 7:53PM

    @Hassan Naqvi: Justice delayed in justice denied, but as the Supreme Court of Pakistan also once stated, justice hurried is justice buried. Let the highest court decide the issues. In my opinion, there is some merit to the court’s judgement because the President should represent the unity of the federation and not a partisan viewpoint. But it is difficult not to look at this as targeting the PPP, something the LHC has been accused of doing. After all, President Rafiq Tarar was a PML(N) senator and remained affiliated with the party. Not to mention the sitting Chiefs of Army that the LHC has allowed to serve as presidents. Perhaps Zardari can plead the doctrine of necessity! Recommend

  • Shahnoor Qamar
    May 12, 2011 - 9:31PM

    Though it came late ,it is the need of constitution.Let SCP-HCP-Lahore adjudicate soonest possible any new appeal of stay or review to not let government buy time for another one and half-two years to bulldoze constitution for personal vested ends. any stay order.this government only ridiculed constitution with most despotic President ever.Recommend

  • TruePakistani
    May 12, 2011 - 10:55PM

    PPP and Babar Awan and the likes are playing magical tricks with the people of Pakistan and the judicial system. A person like President Zardari who doesn’t have the courage and decency to appear in front of the nation on serious and catastrophic issues like what happened in Abbottabad, has no right to be the chairman of a political party, let a lone the President of a country.

    The issue with us Pakistanis is that we let these jaahil and mafias rule us. I’m hoping the new generation will put this kachra aside and give pakistan an non-corrupt leadership in the years to come.

    The blunders that PPP this in it’s tenure will make sure they don’t get a chance to come into government for another 15 years (I hope they stay out of politics for life). Babar Awan is like the dirty guy of a corrupt drug mafia, he does all the dirty work and then tries to make his boss look like the good guy.

    I seriously hope our people get rid of these corrupt and insincere politicians. If we don’t have such a law, we must get a law that disallows politically influenced people to be President. This Zardari guy adverties PPP like a dozen times in every single speech, we don’t want a leader like that. How often have you heard Manmohan singh or Obama boast about his party when giving speeches.

    Even when they do, they don’t hide form their public like this Zardari, who appears in front of his nation like once or twice a year.

    “Khapp” he gya hai Pakistan.Recommend

  • shaheen
    May 12, 2011 - 11:40PM

    Wooff woof…groaned the well trained and well groomed dog, showing off his big shining teeth to the weak and fragile looking dog, who had approached his bones. In the end the fragile dog decided to run away, with his tail tucked between his rear legs, covering his ass and to search for his meal amongst the filth ridden streets of the city, climbing over the heaps of rubbish piled up around the corners.

    Well since we are talking of dogs, you have a pretty good picture of the Pakistani society in the lines above. It’s a dog eat dog society.

    The groomed and well looked after dogs are the military men and the politicians, whereas the fragile ones are the public at large.

    Unless and until the fragile ones at large, stand up and fight for their rights, they will spend their lives amongst the heaps of garbage and the left overs, living a lives more like those of gutter rats, filthy and miserable.

    While the hole world is up in arms, rising against their dictators and the despot rulers, there is no sign of any such rising amongst the Pakistanis, perhaps they are more suited to the life that of fragile dogs.Recommend

  • Folk Mind
    May 13, 2011 - 12:21AM

    Asma Jeghanghir’s reaction on LHC’s unjust and unconstitutional judgement is very cogent. How a Punjab’s High Court (LHC) can hand-out decisions on a Federal Issue. Historically, Judiciary have always given Militray Generals rights to usurp the rights of people of Pakisatn and Dictate country in uniform. It is quite sad and unfortunate LHC gave verdict when President on tour to Russia. LHC is filled with Judges that were recommeded either by Military dictators or their stooges so it is understable such a decision. LHC’s decision is ultra-vires as nowhere in constitution such a ban is prescribed. The chasm between LHC and other provinces’ High Courts is visible. LHC is also contemplating ban on Facebook, what a shame… LHC is restricting freedom of speech and freedom to access the content. No LHC will determine what people should view or listen. It’s quite sad for our democratic and fundamental rights.Recommend

  • Mirza
    May 13, 2011 - 12:28AM

    Lahore HC has been a joke for a long time. Mush was army chief (govt servent), president and he made a “king’s party”. But again he was an armyman and above the law. He was not an elected president or from PPP or Sind.

    How Lahore HC, takes the cases of all elected Sindhi politicians and decides against them? Why such cases would not be heard in Sind HC ever?

    BTW, nice time for the un-masked army to divert the discussion aginst bloody civilians. Recommend

  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson
    May 13, 2011 - 12:32AM

    The verdict of LHC “Na Khapay”. It looks like Mr. Nawaz Sharif is CJ and other three are Ch. Nisr, Mr. Ahsan and Mr. Saad Rafiq. Anyhow this was expected so nothing so strange about this bias judgment. Recommend

  • farooq
    May 13, 2011 - 2:40AM

    lahore high court eh..why am i not surprised…where was the after party…Raiwaind Palace?Recommend

  • Mirza
    May 13, 2011 - 8:13AM

    Why don’t we close the high courts of rest of the four smaller provinces? All the cases of Sind politicians go to Lahore HC and are decided against them anyway. Lahore HC has been on the forefront of most dubious decisions in the history of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Pakistani
    May 13, 2011 - 10:14AM

    and where in the constitution is it written that president house can be used as a wedding hall? when musharaf holds two offices then all politicians make hue and cry but when it is one of their corrupt colleague is holding many offices then it becomes the right of every citizen… Zardari is the president..zardari is the co-chairman, zardari is the father of the chairman, zardari is the son in law of the former prime minister, zardari is the widower of BB,etc etc…. i think india has the same system of democracy and i am sure 99percent of indians even wouldnt know the name of their president but look our president with his shiny teeth is present everywhere and interestingly he is not responsible to anybody :PRecommend

  • Moeed Pirzada
    May 13, 2011 - 10:20AM

    to all those including my dear and respected friend Ms. Asma Jehangir who argue that President can or should have an active political role, I will point out that President Zardari and his supporters are merely exploiting a lacuna and gap in the Pakistani constitution. Such gaps do exist in legal formulations when ideas are being put to paper and subsequent legislative acts or court interpretations revise and correct such gaps. So yes, there is no doubt that nothing exists in constitution in black and white that bars President Zardari from running the political government while being the constitutional head. But the spirit of Pakistani convention, around which this parliamentary system was built was conceived around an “inert” and “merely figure head” president the way it is in India. If we have to have Presidents like Zardari who have to control the government then they have to be directly elected like in the United States or France. What is happening in Pakistan since Sept 2009 has taken away whatever merit ever existed in Pakistani form of government, now it’s only a sham..and the problems we are facing today are to a great extent a direct outcome of this situation…Asma’s partisan position is disappointing, she needs to rise above this narrow interpretation and we need to build upon the decision of Lahore High Court as providing us a nucleus to correct the imbalance… what they have done is provided us an “legal idea” which needs to be developed further…as a concept..Recommend

  • May 13, 2011 - 1:19PM

    ARROGANT & CONTEMPTUOUS ATTITUDE: The High Court, Lahore has passed the decison against President Zardari qua his dual offices. Mr.Babar Awan who is a lawyer should not shout in a manner, posing himself a lay man. He should have shown all respect to the decisions of the court and if aggrieved may file appeal etc. before higher forum. The statement of Mr.Babar Awan that the decisons from Tehte Lahore are not good for small provinces, is not only against the ehtics but also contemptuous one and against the federation of Pakistan. Being Pakistani we are one and we should not talk about Provincialism. This statement of Mr.Babar Awan appears to be based on having pregnant with grudge. What is the object behind this statement? and we can only understand that such like statements are made only to please his boss. Very Sorry?????????????????Recommend

  • Ahmer Ali
    May 13, 2011 - 1:53PM

    Assalam-o-Allaikum Warahmatullah.Raising this ordinary issue is only a delaying tactic and diverting the main focus from common man’s problems’ and difficulties’ solution.Having dual offices is not the core and burning issue for the nation and the government and judiciary are wasting lots of money and time on such these types of ordinary and useless issue instead of resolving common man’s problems and difficulties in Pakistan and improving Pakistan’s and its nation’s economical issues for real betterment on large scale permanently.Recommend

  • Pakistani
    May 13, 2011 - 5:05PM

    Constitution of Pakistan clearly restrict Government Servant to participate in political activity

    Freedom of association
    17 (2) every citizen not being in service of Pakistan, shell have the right to form or be a member of political party, subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in interest of the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan Recommend

  • whocares
    May 13, 2011 - 7:33PM

    These lucky judges have the luxury of interpreting the constitution the way they want, sitting in luxurious airconidtioned offices. They should be on the road looking at the mass killings, murders, rapes. Those cases take 10 years before their turn comes. The country’s surivival is at stake. But for high profile cases, they process them in the express lane!Recommend

  • May 13, 2011 - 7:58PM

    The verdict by Lahore High Court that President should suspend political activities. The verdict seems hilarious; President has already clipped his power and transferred his powers to Prime Minister of Pakistan. However he is the head of the largest political party of Pakistan and in order to run the party affairs he can not alienate himself from the affairs of a party running Pakistan. As far the objection regarding President’s status quo is that he represents federation and always an icon of federation, he played his role much more better than the previous presidents of Pakistan. The history is replete with the palace intrigues, in which presidents played a role of partisan and toppled several governments, comparing the role of Zardari he always united the country through politics of reconciliation. He never subverted the federation nor did he undermined any political party, rather than he negotiated with all the political parties on equal footing to strengthen Pakistan. The decision seems biased and unfair. Recommend

  • May 13, 2011 - 8:02PM

    With the entrance of Zardari to corridors of Powers, all the hell broke out. Establishment is annoyed, right wing political parties are in ire and Media is blowing fire against him. The remaining deficiency is bridged by the Courts. From NRO to the status quo of President, Courts seem waging a war against him. The entire efforts focus to dislodge Zardari, he has become a thorn of eye of all the bullies of courts, media men and Right wing political parties. They never intended to underscore any of the single folly of Zardari, infact they can’t. They have nothing to prove against him. They are all as crooked as dog hind legs, but they are so blind to see their filth.

    The recent verdict of Supreme Court shows nothing but a trick to hide their embarrassment. The verdict of LHC would be another blot on the stained past of judiciary. I wonder after 64 years Judiciary remembered that a President should be non-partisan. Where was the judiciary when Skindar Mirza used president house to promote the Republican parties interests? Why Judiciary behaved like a dumb spectator when Ayub Khan was chalking out political strategies for conventional Muslim League? Why Judiciary was in slumber when Ishaq Khan was on course of collision with Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed? Why Judiciary did not intervene when Ghulam Ishaq Khan toppled the Benazir Bhutto’s regime?Recommend

  • whocares
    May 14, 2011 - 7:11AM

    The general perception, right to or wrong, is that LHC is biased against people who are not their type. The present members of the judiciary deserve credit for creating apathy towards them by average Pakistanis. The high esteem in which we used to hold the judiciary – treating court decisions sacredly – has been evaporated. Thanks to judges from Nasim Hassan Shah through Dogar to the media-coverage-loving, remarkscentric, Chaudhry.The average Pakistani doesn’t seem to care about their decisions anymore. It is sad.Recommend

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