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President Asif Ali Zardari. — File Photo

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday heard the contempt of court petition against President Asif Ali Zardari for not relinquishing the political office of PPP co-chairman, DawnNews reported.

A larger bench of the LHC headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial heard the case.

During the hearing, senior lawyer Wasim Sajjad, representing the federation, said that there was no example pertaining to judicial action against a head of state.

Sajjad said it was the first time that questions had been raised over the political role of a president which was why the bench should first assess whether the petition was maintainable or not.

Sajjad said the president was a part of the federation due to which the bench should allow the federal government to become a party in the case.  He further that he (Sajjad) was representing President Zardari before the bench.

Petitioner’s counsel A K Dogar said the case was filed against Asif Ali Zardari in his capacity as an individual which was why the federal government could not be made a party in it.

In his arguments before the bench, Attorney General Irfan Qadir stated that the bench should not rush with respect to the case's hearing as there were a number of constitutional pointers which needed to be addressed.

Qadir moreover said that lawyers should not file cases in courts that may draw the judiciary in the political domain.

Rejecting the government's request to be made a formal party in the case, the bench adjourned the hearing to Sept 21.

The bench further permitted the federal government to become a "conditional party" in the case and ruled that the federation's lawyer could raise his/her objections and argue over the questions being raised in the court but he/she could not argue over the merit of the petition.

Earlier on Sept 5, the bench had issued a fresh notice to President Zardari through his principal secretary and sought a reply to the petition pleading contempt proceedings against him for not abiding a court order to relinquish his political office.

The petition that had been filed by Munir Ahmad through lawyers A K Dogar and Azhar Siddique had accused President Zardari of indulging in political activities in the presidency. It had stated that the president had neither disassociated himself from the political office nor had he stopped ‘misusing’ the President House despite a verdict by the Lahore High Court’s full bench against the dual-office.

The petitioner had also contended that the use of Presidency for political activities was illegal and tantamount to committing contempt of the court’s orders issued on May 12 last year. He had also requested the court to issue a show-cause notice to the president and punish him under Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003, read with Article 204 of the Constitution.