ISLAMABAD, Aug 30: The Supreme Court directed the federal government on Friday to submit its legal response to a plea for restraining Asif Ali Zardari from leaving the country after the expiry of his five-year term as president on Sept 8.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali issued the directive on a petition filed by Shahid Orakzai last week while his fresh application was fixed for Friday through a supplementary cause list issued in the morning.
Mr Orakzai had also sought the change of bench because one of his petitions moved in November 2011 was clubbed with half a dozen petitions which were pending before a nine-judge larger bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry hearing the memo scandal case.
In that petition, he had sought an order for President Zardari to inform the court about his travel plans.
Mr Orakzai had also challenged the inquiry against former ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani who was grilled by the army chief as well as then director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the presence of the president and the then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the Presidency soon after the memo controversy.
The controversial memorandum was allegedly sent by Mr Haqqani to former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen seeking US intervention to avert a possible overthrow of the civilian government by the military following the May 2, 2011 US raid in Abbottabad in which Osama Bin Laden was killed.
A judicial commission constituted by the Supreme Court to investigate the matter had held that Mr Haqqani was the originator and architect of the June 12, 2012, memorandum.
The petitioner asserted that the president had a personal stake and was worried about the exposure. Besides, he added, the concealment of information about the impending US raid allegedly by the president amounted to collusion with the intruders.
In his fresh application, Mr Orakzai requested the court to separate his original petition from other petitions on the memo scandal because the term of President Zardari was about to expire and he might leave Pakistan.
He argued that his original petition had no common question of law like that of the other petitions filed by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and other members of his party and, therefore, did not require the audience of nine judges. Since Nawaz Sharif was now prime minister he could not be a petitioner against the government, he added.
Mr Orakzai requested the court to constitute a new bench of not less than two judges to hear his petition in accordance with the court rules.
The case was adjourned for Sept 3.