LAHORE – Lahore High Court chief justice Wednesday re-notified a three-judge full bench to proceed on two constitutional petitions against President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The petitions seek action against President Zardari for not disassociating himself from political activities and disqualification of PM Gilani on charges of mutiny and action against him for allegedly defying court orders and subverting the constitution. Earlier, Justice Umar Ata Bandial had repeatedly sought reply from the federal government on the petition against the prime minister but government, apparently, did not bother to honour the court directions. During the course of hearing on Oct 4 2011, petitioner’s counsel AK Dogar requested Justice Bandial to refer the matter to chief justice, submitting that the matter was of a sensitive nature and it should be dealt by a larger bench. Justice Bandial referred the matter to chief justice who formed a full bench on Wednesday to hear the petition.

The three-judge bench would be headed by Chief Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and comprise Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh and Justice Chaudhary Shahid Saeed. Former LHC Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry had on Oct 14, 2011 constituted the same full bench after a one-judge bench had referred the case to him for constitution of a larger bench. The bench will start hearing after winter vacation in the high court.

Petitioner Allah Bakhsh Gondal through his counsel AK Dogar advocate contended that Gilani by deliberate defiance of Supreme Court orders and repeated attempts to subvert the constitution had ceased to hold the office by automatic operation of provisions of articles 5, 6 and 92(2) of the constitution. The petitioner said the federal government started confrontation with SC after the court struck down the national reconciliation ordinance (NRO) in Dec 2009.

He pointed out that government had not complied with the directions repeatedly given by the court to write letter to Swiss authorities regarding reopening of 60 million dollar corruption cases against President Zardari. He said PPP leaders gave a strike call in Sindh and President Zardari’s right hand Zulfiqar Mirza publicly attacked the SC judges. The PPP also called a general strike and protest day across the Sindh against the SC judgment removing Justice(r) Deedar Hussain Shah as NAB chairman.

Petitioner further said the prime minister had taken no step to implement an LHC order wherein President Zardari was expected to disassociate himself from political office at the earliest. He said the LHC order also desired a halt to use of the presidency for political activities but the PM had not taken any action in this regard too. The petitioner-lawyer submitted that the PPP government had come out in the open to threaten the country by its Sindh Card which was a clear case of subversion of one of the pillars of the constitution, the federation. He further said the president had assumed and exercised absolute powers and the prime minister was a mere puppet in his hand because the president who was continuing to hold the office of PPP head had the whole control. Thus the dictatorship of Mr Zardari in the garb of democracy had subverted the third pillar of the state, the parliament.

The petitioner, therefore, prayed to the court to declare that the prime minister had deliberately defied and repeatedly brushed aside orders of SC and had in utter bad faith tried to subvert the constitution. Furthermore, he asked the court to also declare that the PM had become disqualified to hold his office as he the fortified the sacred trust as observed by Hamoodur Rehman then, chief justice in Asma Jillani case (PLD 1072 SC 139, 182).

In second petition, Rana Ilamudin Ghazi advocate said that the full bench of the high court in its order had declared the involvement of the president in political activities unconstitutional. He said the respondent (Zardari) had not disassociated himself from political activities at the earliest as expected by the court nor he stopped misusing the premises of the presidency for purposes of his political party.

In both petitions, it is prayed to the court to declare the PM disqualified to hold his office and sought action against him under high treason charges.