Zardari should submit response on holding dual offices: Court

A court asked Zardari to submit a response by Oct 31 to its judgement asking him to give up his political office of head of the ruling PPP.

Lahore: A court Wednesday asked President Asif Ali Zardari to submit a response by October 31 to its judgement asking him to give up his political office of head of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.

A four-judge bench of the Lahore High Court headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial issued the direction after hearing arguments by the government`s lawyer, Waseem Sajjad, who argued that the court had not passed any formal order to bar Zardari from holding the two offices of President and co-chairman of the PPP.

Acting on a petition, the court had said in a ruling last year that "it expects the President to leave one of the offices".

Sajjad argued: "It was not an order and therefore the question of contempt doesn`t arise."

The High Court is currently hearing a petition that has asked it to charge Zardari with contempt for not acting on last year`s ruling.

Sajjad stuck to the argument that the President had not committed contempt as the court had not issued a binding order.

After hearing Sajjad`s arguments, the bench asked him to get a "response" from the President to the ruling issued last year.

"We want to know the President`s view about last year`s judgement of this court about his dual office," the Chief Justice remarked before the proceedings were adjourned till October 31.

The High Court had earlier issued a notice to Zardari, asking him to tell the bench why he had not followed its suggestion to relinquish the political office of co-chairman of the PPP.

Petitioner Azhar Siddique`s counsel A K Dogar, who represents Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed, argued that the government could not defend the case as Zardari would have to appoint his own lawyer.

"The federal government cannot become a respondent in the case. It is a contempt of court case and under the law, the federal government cannot defend the President. The President should appoint a lawyer to plead his case," Dogar claimed.

Siddique claimed that the use of the presidency for partisan political activities by Zardari was not only illegal but amounted to contempt for the court`s ruling of last year.