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Dissociate from PPP or face contempt charge: Pak court to Prez

Lahore: A Pakistani court today directed President Asif Ali Zardari to act on its earlier order to dissociate himself from political activities and to stop using the presidency for political purposes, failing which contempt of court proceedings could be initiated against him.

A three-judge bench of the Lahore High Court headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial made the observation in response to two petitions filed against Zardari for not quitting the political office of head of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party.

The Chief Justice remarked: "The court is issuing a short order directing the President to implement the Lahore High Court`s order in this regard, otherwise contempt of court proceedings may be initiated against him".

The bench noted that the High Court had issued an order on May 12, 2011 that said it expected the President to disassociate himself from political activities as soon as possible. It said adequate time would be given to the President to act on this order.

The court questioned the petitioners on whether the President had any immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution.

A K Dogar, the counsel for one of the petitioners, claimed the President had no immunity in civil cases. Dogar is also the lawyer for Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed.

Though the High Court had issued a notice to the Principal Secretary to the President at the last hearing on June 25, the official neither appeared in court nor submitted a reply today.

Earlier, Dogar said the court should summon Zardari to explain his position as the Supreme Court too had summoned former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani in a recent contempt of court case.

Muhammad Azhar Siddique, the counsel for the other petitioner, argued that Zardari had not disassociated himself from political activities. He claimed directions issued by the High Court in May last year had not been obeyed and the President had not stopped "misusing" the presidency for the activities of the PPP.

The two lawyers said the Constitution stated that the President should be impartial and non-political. If the President did not act in an impartial manner, then action could be taken against him, they said.

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