Taking on Zardari

Taking on Zardari

The Lahore High Court directed President Asif Ali Zardari in May to give up one of the two offices he holds: president of Pakistan and co-chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). A petition was filed by one Muneer Ahmad Khan in May, whose grouse was that Zardari had not disassociated himself from the PPP's political office, and as head of state, had indulged in political activities. He said Zardari had "misused" the presidency and was liable for contempt of court. The right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami has thrown its weight behind this and filed another petition. It sought Zardari's disqualification from office for retaining his PPP position when filing his nomination for the last presidential election. The petition stated the presidency regularly hosted and paid for the PPP's meetings.

The last hearing took place on Friday, reported Dawn's website on December 7: "The LHC chief justice... said that although the court could convict anyone for committing contempt of court, fact remained that the president enjoyed immunity...." The next hearing is scheduled for December 10.

Short ban

ZARDARI faced another ban, lifted soon after. The Supreme Court (SC) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) barred him from electioneering for bypolls. Provincial governors were treated similarly. It's being viewed as further intimidation by the perceptibly anti-PPP superior judiciary ó two of Pakistan's four provinces have PPP governments and one is governed by its ally, the Awami National Party.

The News reported on December 2: "After the SC... the ECP has also sought impartiality from President Zardari... the office of the president has been added to the list of other public officeholders in the latest Election Code... The... last code of conduct... also put restrictions on the executive and public office holders not to influence the elections but there was no mention of the office of the president... after the issuance of [the] last code, the media had pointed out that within a few days... Zardari was reported to have emerged as the most conspicuous violator." A Dawn report on December 7 brought relief for Zardari: "In a surprising move, the ECP issued a notification allowing Zardari and [the] governors... to take part in election campaigns for the remaining byelections."

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