Pakistan's Lahore High Court (LHC) [official website] ruled Thursday that President Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile] must not participate in political activities, insisting that the president's role is to remain neutral. Currently, Zardari also serves as a co-chairman for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) [party website]. The decision to remove Zardari from head of political party is in response to petitions challenging Zardari's ability to effectively serve in two roles [JURIST report]. Those in opposition to Zardari also claimed that Zardari was violating Pakistan's constitution [text] by serving in the capacity of president and party head simultaneously. The court rejected the argument that Zardari enjoyed presidential immunity from judicial intervention under the constitution. The LHC verdict, in support of the claim that the president should be a symbol of impartiality, ordered that Zardari disassociate himself from all political activities immediately.
Since becoming president in 2008, Zardari has faced several challenges. Last year, Zardari signed into law [JURIST report] the 18th Amendment bill [text, PDF], limiting presidential powers expanded under Pervez Musharraf. Under the amendment, which effectively reduces the role of the president to a figurehead, the vast majority of the president's powers will be transferred to the office of the prime minister. The introduction of the bill came amid controversy over reopening corruption investigations against Zardari. Weeks earlier, Pakistan's attorney general Anwar Mansoor announced his resignation over controversy surrounding a Supreme Court order to investigate corruption allegations [JURIST reports]. Swiss authorities denied a request [JURIST report] from Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau [official website], refusing to reopen a corruption investigation against Zardari. Aides to Zardari believed that presidential immunity protects him from prosecution, even after the Supreme Court overturned an amnesty law [JURIST report] implemented by Musharraf.