LAHORE - A full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday restrained the President from using the President House for political purposes, underscoring that its use be strictly restricted to the performance of constitutional duties only. The four-member bench headed by Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry also said President Asif Ali Zardari should dissociate himself from his political (party) office at the earliest possible. In the 33-page detailed judgment, the court underlined that duties and functions of the lofty office of the President of Pakistan should be discharged by the incumbent with complete neutrality, impartiality and aloofness from any partisan political interest. The court has expected of President Asif Ali Zardari that he would abide by the said declaration of law made by the Supreme Court in Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif case, and dissociate himself from the political office at the earliest. The court categorically declared that the use of the premises of the Presidency for partisan political activities is inconsistent with the sanctity, dignity, neutrality and independence of the office. The court expected that President Zardari would not hold any party meeting in the Presidency in addition to relinquishing the party office. Justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan are the other members on the bench that passed the judgment on the petitions filed the Pakistan Lawyers Forum and others who objected to President Zardari simultaneously holding office of the President of Pakistan and keeping the PPP Co-chairperson slot. They said that in terms of Article 41 (1) of the Constitution, the President as head of the state and symbol of unity of the Federation, needs to be neutral and above partisan. Invoking Article 260, they also hit at the dual offices of the President. During proceedings, no one appeared to represent President Zardari while the law officers also did not appear despite repeated notices to them. The respondents were aggrieved that their objections to the maintainability of petitions have not been decided at the first instance while the court was of the view that the objections could be dealt with purely on constitutional points raised in the petitions, particularly when no objection has been raised by the respondents to the jurisdictional bar of the court. Following non-representation of the respondents, the court engaged senior jurists, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, SM Zafar and Abid Hassan Minto as amicus curie to meet the end of justice while proceedings ex-parte against the President. For the petitioner, Advocate AK Dogar contended the case. In the detailed judgment, on the basis of material produced by the petitioners as evidence that the president was regularly holding party meetings in the Presidency wherein decisions are taken, the court said that participation of the President in political party decisions is extraneous to the duties and functions of the constitutional office, therefore his participation and decisions cannot be treated in the performance of his constitutional duties so immune under Article 248 of the Constitution. Political meetings and political decisions in the Presidency, the court said, is below dignity of the high status and neutrality attached with this State property. The said public property can be used only for the purposes of the state and not for any partisan purpose, the court maintained. The court observed that it has a case where the President is exposing himself and his lofty office to the likely controversy that can erode the public trust and respect necessary for such office to represent the unity of the Republic. By using the Presidency for partisan political interest, the President does not discharge functions of his constitutional office but personal and private association with his political party. As such these actions do not enjoy immunity from the judicial process and call for judicial intervention to enforce the Constitution, the court observed. On the precedence of Mian Nawaz Sharif case of 1993, the court observed that neutrality and impartiality of the Presidential office has been based on the notion that contrary conduct on the incumbents part will make the office controversial. When the highest office of the state becomes controversial then such a state of affairs erodes the unity of the state, the court added. It further said with reference to Article 48 (1) of the Constitution that the President can ask the government to reconsider its decision, but cannot undo the same as such the president is not held responsible for a bad political decision of the government. This is a constitutional scheme to protect the President against any political backlash while making the government alone accountable for its decisions. Often in a political turmoil, the government faces crises and even may fall before the Opposition. The office of the President as such, must survive such crises with pristine neutrality and he must remain a unifying force to ensure smooth running of the parliamentary democracy. On the other hand, if the President himself becomes embroiled in a political controversy or crises that surrounds the government then he becomes equally vulnerable to the consequences of political turmoil. Appreciating withdrawal of the prayer by the petitioners for disqualification of the President, the court observed that recourse of disqualification under Article 47 is available only with the parliament and the court shall not by collateral means transgress that constitutional limitation. However, the court is always empowered to grant such relief as the justice of a case demands.