Pak court seeks response from govt on Zardari’s dual posts

Lahore: A Pakistani court on Thursday gave the federal government time till June 14 to reply to a petition challenging the holding of dual offices of President and ruling party chief by Asif Ali Zardari.

A five-member bench of the Lahore High Court headed by Justice Ijaz Chaudhry had served notice on the President during the last hearing of the petition challenging his holding of two offices.

Pakistan Lawyers Forum president A K Dogar filed the petition that questioned the right of the President to also function as head of the ruling Pakistan People's Party. Government lawyer Saiful Maluk today requested the court to grant more time to submit a reply.

The court then ruled that the government should submit a response by June 14.

Dogar, who is also the counsel of Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, said in his petition that the holding of two offices by Zardari is a blatant violation of Article 41 (1) of the constitution.

He noted that the article states that the President "shall be the head of state and shall represent the unity of the republic" and that his position will be non-partisan.

"President Zardari is not representative of the unity of the republic," Dogar contended.

Dogar further said: "The President as the symbol of the unity of the federation is entitled to the highest respect and esteem by all functionaries of the state.

"But it is equally true that this respect and esteem will be forthcoming if he conducts himself with utmost impartiality and neutrality, that he keep himself entirely aloof from party politics and does not give the impression to anyone that he is siding with one faction or working against the other".

He added that the Supreme Court had laid down that the President should be a non-partisan person in order to protect and preserve the dignity of the office.

"Mr Zardari is required to maintain a neutral image," he said.