Prez dual office: LHC forms larger bench to hear contempt case

Asif Ali Zardari

Amid controversy over President Asif Ali Zardari's dual office, a Pakistani court has constituted a larger five-judge bench to hear a contempt petition against him on September 5 for not relinquishing his political post of co-chairman of the ruling PPP.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial constituted the bench that he will himself head.

Muhammad Azhar Siddique, chairman of the Judicial Activism Panel, filed the contempt of court petition against the President for holding a political office and conducting political activities in the presidency in violation of an order from the Lahore High Court.

Siddique contended that Zardari had not disassociated himself from his political office as was expected by the High Court's full bench in a ruling last year against the President holding two positions.

He said directions issued by the high court had not been followed and Zardari had not stopped "misusing" presidency.

He claimed the use of the presidency for "partisan political activities" by Zardari was illegal and amounted to contempt of the high court's order issued on May 12 last year.

He asked the court to issue a show cause notice to the President and punish him for contempt under the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003 and Article 204 of the Constitution.

On the other hand, Attorney General Irfan Qadir has said courts have no jurisdiction to issue notices to the President and the sanctity of the country's highest office should be maintained by all.

He said the President had the power to hold any office of his choice and courts had no power to issue a notice in this regard. "Being the appointing authority for judges, the office of the President is supreme," Qadir said.

He said the courts should respect the office of the President, who is the head of the state.

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