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Pak govt becomes respondent in contempt case against Zardari

Lahore: A Pakistani court on Thursday allowed the federal government to become a respondent in a contempt of court case against President Asif Ali Zardari and adjourned the matter till September 21.

At the last hearing, a four-judge bench of the Lahore High Court headed by Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial had issued a notice to Zardari, asking him to explain why he had not acted on its order suggesting that he relinquish the political office of co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan People's Party.

On Friday, Attorney General Irfan Qadir and lawyer Wasim Sajjad appeared in the High Court and asked that the federal government be allowed to become a "proforma respondent" to the case.

Pak President Asid Ali Zardari.

A "proforma respondent" is authorised to give arguments related only to the allegation of contempt.

Qadir argued the petition challenging the holding of two offices by the President was "political motivated" and an attempt to drag the judiciary into politics. He asked the court to dismiss the petition.

Petitioner Azhar Siddique's counsel A K Dogar argued that the federal government could not defend the case and that 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," said Dogar, who is also the lawyer for Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed.

The High Court reserved its decision after hearing arguments by both sides on whether the federal government could become a respondent to the case.

After an hour, the bench declared in a short order that the federal government could only become a "proforma respondent" with no right to make detailed arguments.

"The federal government can give arguments related to the contempt only," lawyer Wasim Sajjad told reporters while interpreting the court's order.

He said the court had adjourned the case till September 21.

The petitioner had alleged that Zardari was using the presidency for partisan political activities and this amounted to contempt of the Lahore High Court's order of May 12, 2011.

PTI