A full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday asked President Asif Ali Zardari to dissociate himself from political activities by September 5.
The bench was hearing a contempt of court petition against President Zardari for holding dual offices, as president of Pakistan and co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party.
It maintained that since the president is a symbol of the federation, he cannot be affiliated with a political party. Chief Justice LHC Umar Ata Bandial noted that President Zardari had not yet given up his post of PPP co-chairman despite the court’s “expectations.”
Justice Bandial said the court will pass an appropriate order if the president fails to act upon the May 12, 2011 order by the next date of hearing, a spokesperson of the Lahore High Court told The Express Tribune. He added that no written order has been issued so far.
The three-member bench also expressed dissatisfaction over the absence of the attorney general of Pakistan. “It is regrettable that law officers are not present to assist the courts,” said Justice Bandial.
Deputy Attorney General Abdul Hayee Gillani responded that the notice was not issued to government authorities and that he came to know about the proceedings through media reports.
Gillani requested the court to defer proceedings till the notice was received by the concerned quarters, but it was turned down and the petitioner’s counsel Advocate AK Dogar was asked to proceed with his arguments.
Dogar argued that indulging in political activities in the presidency was unconstitutional and thus President Zardari had committed contempt of court by not complying with the May 12 order. When questioned by Justice Bandial whether the president enjoyed immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution, Dogar said since the case was of a civil nature the court should ensure the order’s implementation.
Justice Bandial said the court should give considerable time to the president to which the petitioner’s counsel agreed. The bench then adjourned the hearing and directed the attorney general’s office to convey its decision to the president.
In May 2011, a bench headed by then LHC chief justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry had ruled the presidency off-limits for political activity, saying the practice was “inconsistent with the dignity, neutrality and independence of the presidency.”
“Therefore, it is expected that the President of Pakistan cease using the presidency’s premises for political meetings of his party,” the bench had written in its judgment.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2012.
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