Presidency not to be used for politics, says govt
LAHORE, Feb 6: The federal government gave an undertaking to the Lahore High Court on Wednesday that the President House would not be used for political activities in future.
In a written reply submitted to a full bench on behalf of the federation, Advocate Wasim Sajjad admitted that the Presidency had
been used for political activities, but requested the court to forget the past and look forward.
The five-judge full bench, headed by LHC Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, had taken up a petition seeking contempt proceedings against President Asif Ali Zardari for not complying with a court order in the dual office case.
Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh, Justice Sheikh Najamul Hassan, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah are other members of the bench.
The federation’s counsel maintained that the President was not head of any political party. He clarified that President Zardari was co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party which had no legal status as it was neither registered with the Election
Commission nor did it field candidates in elections. The PPP could be only defined as a private association, he added.
Advocate Sajjad said the PPP (Parliamentarian) was the actual ruling party which was headed by Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was its Secretary General.
He argued that the President’s meetings with ministers could not be described as political activities.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan wondered how the President could remain non-partisan as he supported a particular political party and opposed others at public meetings.
The counsel said anybody could address public meetings and it did not require the speaker to be a political person.
Justice Mansoor Shah asked the counsel whether the PPP did not fall within the definition of a political party or the President could keep his association with a private political organisation and whether it was necessary for a party to get itself registered with the Election Commission for political activities.
Wasim Sajjad said the Constitution restrained the President from holding another office which fell within the ambit of civil service only.
Chief Justice Bandial observed that the federation’s reply suggested that the court was going to issue an adverse order specifically against the PPP. He explained that the court wanted the President to shun political activities as a whole.
The chief justice said it was a common perception that the President House was being used for political activities of a particular party. He observed that the reply reflected a positive change in the approach of the President towards the court’s order.
Petitioner’s counsel A.K Dogar opposed the reply and said the federation’s counsel could not represent the President. He requested the bench to direct Mr Sajjad to fetch clear instructions from the President about implementation of the LHC judgment of May 12, 2011. He accused the federation of trying to delay implementation of the verdict.
Advocate Sajjad argued that the President was a part of the federation and it could represent the office of the President. The court adjourned the hearing to Feb 15 and directed the federation’s counsel to come up with arguments whether the President’s association with a private political organisation was in conflict with the court’s judgment.
The court handed over the DVD of a TV programme to Additional Attorney General Abdul Hayee Gillani and asked him to submit its transcript at the next hearing.
Mr Gillani had accused one of the petitioner’s lawyers, Advocate Azhar Siddique, of trying to dictate the court about the proceedings in the programme.
The chief justice said the court had already seen the DVD but did not find any contemptuous stuff.
Petitioner Munir Ahmad had alleged that President Zardari was carrying out political activities in the Presidency in violation of the LHC judgment. He said the President had not dissociated himself from the political office, as desired by the court in its
decision in the dual office case.
He said the use of the Presidency for political activities was unconstitutional and requested the court to issue a show-cause notice to the president and punish him under the Contempt of Court Law.