In a widely anticipated move, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Saturday announced that it would challenge the recent Lahore High Court (LHC) decision that asked President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of the PPP, to halt his political activities.
“It is not a constitutional decision and we have decided to challenge it in the Supreme Court,” said Raja Pervez Ashraf, a party leader and former federal minister, at a press conference in Islamabad on Saturday. Ashraf did not specify a timeframe for the legal challenge.
On May 11, the LHC ruled that it “expected” President Zardari to suspend all political activities on the grounds that these activities were inconsistent with the neutrality and independence of the office of the presidency.
Soon after the decision, former law minister Babar Awan had stated that the president was allowed to take part in politics in accordance with article 50 of the constitution. Awan added that political activity was not defined by the constitution.
Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the constitution did not have any clause barring the president from holding both the office of party chairman and the presidency.
“President Zardari was democratically elected with a two-thirds majority and no one had raised any objection over his candidacy. He is the first democratically elected president who has addressed Parliament three times,” he added.
Ashraf said that dual office of military dictators was validated by the judiciary in the past but the case of any democratic president had never came under discussion. He added that the party respects the independence of the judiciary.
Meanwhile, the president’s supporters in Gilgit-Baltistan have ferociously come to his defence. Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mehdi Shah said that the LHC decision was aimed at keeping the president away from the people.
“Such verdicts can’t keep the president away from the public,” he told journalists at his residence, in a veiled allusion towards the PPP’s primary opposition, which is based out of Lahore. (With additional reporting by Shabbir Mir in Gilgit)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2011.
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