President will need constitutional amendment to stay as PPP co-chief -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

President will need constitutional amendment to stay as PPP co-chief

Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The PPP would require a constitutional amendment to allow President Asif Ali Zardari to continue staying as the co-chairperson of the PPP beyond the deadline set by the Lahore High Court.

Besides, a negation of the past precedents, including those set by the PPP leaders, the dual office of the incumbent president and his active role as the PPP’s co-chairperson is in conflict with certain constitutional provisions that simply do not accept the head of the state to be a member of any political party.

On Wednesday last, the LHC asked Asif Ali Zardari to quit one office by Sept 5 this year as the president could not be a head and a member of any political party.

The problems for the president are constitutional as Article 260 of the Constitution, while defining the “Service of Pakistan” does not exclude the president and governors from these public offices while the prime minister, ministers and chief ministers are not included in the service of Pakistan.

The Article 260 defines the service of Pakistan — “Service of Pakistan” means any service, post or office in connection with the affairs of the Federation or of a province and includes an All-Pakistan Service, service in the Armed Forces and any other service declared to be a service of Pakistan by or under Act of [274][Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] or of a provincial assembly, but does not include service as speaker, deputy speaker, chairman, deputy chairman, prime minister, federal minister, minister of State, chief minister, provincial minister, [275] [attorney-general, [276] [advocate-general,] parliamentary secretary] or [277] [chairman or member of a Law Commission, chairman or member of the Council of Islamic Ideology, special assistant to the prime minister, adviser to the prime minister, special assistant to chief minister, adviser to a chief minister] or member of a house or a provincial assembly.”

Article 17 bars those in the service of Pakistan to take part in politics. The Article 17 give all citizens the freedom of association to a political party, but 17(2) puts a bar on those in the service of Pakistan by saying: “Every citizen, not being in the service of Pakistan, shall have the right to form or be a member of a political party, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan…”

The Article 63 (1) (k) bars those in the “service of Pakistan” to take part in elections until a period of two years is elapsed since the retirement of such a person.

The Article 63(1)(k) reads as: “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if:- (k) he has been in the service of Pakistan or of any statutory body or anybody which is owned or controlled by the government or in which the government has a controlling share or interest, unless a period of two years has elapsed since he ceased to be in such service.”

The Article 41 of the Constitution says: “There shall be a president of Pakistan who shall be head of State and shall represent the unity of the Republic.”

It was because of the above-mentioned constitutional provisions that all presidents elected during democratic regime after the introduction of the 1973 Constitution were made to resign from their basic membership of their party, before taking over as the president of Pakistan.

Fazal Elahi Chaudhry was a PPP leader but was asked to resign from the PPP membership before his election as the president of Pakistan. The same was done to President Sardar Farooq Khan Leghari and President Rafiq Tarar before they took over as the head of state during the regimes of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif respectively.

President Farooq Leghari had to wait for two years after he quit the office of the president to take part in politics. He had formed his Millat Party after two years of his retirement as the president.

It is also because they are government servants, retired presidents and governors are entitled to pension.

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