President’s dual offices: Lahore court’s verdict receives a mixed response in Sindh

PPP MPAs don black armbands in protest.

Sarfaraz Memon May 13, 2011


The Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision asking President Asif Ali Zardari to relinquish his position as co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) sparked protests all over Sindh on Friday.

On Thursday, a four-member LHC bench declared that the president’s participation in party decisions was “extraneous to the duties and functions of his high constitutional office”.

In Sukkur, the Peoples Lawyers Forum’s Mukesh Kumar labelled the ban “unnecessary and wrong”. He told The Express Tribune that opponents will take advantage of the decision and hinder the president’s work. He demanded that the government to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. Kumar felt the “decision was not justified”. He used Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as examples of leaders who had held dual offices. The SC allowed Musharraf to be the army chief and the chief executive of the country, he observed.

Shabbir Shar, a lawyer, saw things differently, as did the Sukkur district bar association’s Shafqat Raheem. They found the LHC decision to be “correct and in accordance with the Constitution”.

“After taking oath as the president, one should leave party politics aside because it is an independent post,” said Shar. “Zardari should either remain president or be the co-chairman of the party.”

He cited former presidents Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry, Rafiq Tarar and Farooq Leghari, who all resigned from their parties soon after being sworn in as president. Shar expressed anxiety over the new trend of openly protesting against court decisions. “One has the right to appeal in a superior court against the decision of a lower court,” he said, “but the PPP leaders and workers are holding protest rallies and staging demonstrations against the court’s verdicts, which is wrong.”

Hyderabad protests

The PPP staged a protest and criticised the high court’s ruling on Friday. “The ruling is incomprehensible,” said minister Zahid Bhurgari, who was leading the protesters.

PPP leader Taj Hyder called the ruling a “weak decision”.

PPP MPAs react in Sindh Assembly

MPAs wore Sindhi topis, ajraks and black armbands during the assembly’s session on Friday. They refused to accept the decision and said they want to record a peaceful protest.

Before the debate began, the members of the opposition and the coalition partners, including Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), National People’s Party (NPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) left, leaving the ruling party with the floor. Minister Sharjeel Memon felt that the verdict was a “double-standard” decision. The PPP ministers and MPAs cited the examples of Zulfikar Bhutto, dissolving Benazir’s government, and the verdicts against her and her father and other party leaders.

“There is [nothing] in the constitution [saying] that a political leader cannot be elected president,” said Memon. The PPP will pass a resolution against the decision in the Sindh Assembly on Monday.

with additional reporting by Z Ali and Hafeez Tunio

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2011.


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