Debate on presidential pardon for Pakistan PM if convicted in contempt case

Friday, Feb 10,2012, 4:58:12 PM

The debate over whether the president can use the powers bequeathed to him under Article 45 of the constitution to pardon Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani if the latter is convicted in a contempt of court case heatedly ensued between legal experts behind the doors of governmental power.

Article 45 of the constitution reads: "The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority."

According to sources, legal experts in both the presidency and PM House were busy discussing different contingency measures in case the prime minister was convicted in the contempt of court case pending against him. Legal analysts delved into the dynamics of Article 45 that gives the president clout to pardon a convict.

However, sources revealed that another group of legal experts within the PPP [Pakistan Peoples Party] was heatedly debating whether Article 45 of the constitution relates to the power of the president or the function of the president. An alternative perspective questioned whether the PM could advise the president to invoke Article 45 of the constitution if he was convicted from the courts. "But the question was whether the convicted PM needed to advise the president to seek the pardon," said a constitutional expert from the PPP.

Another senior constitutional expert when approached said the issue was debatable since no such situation had arisen so far. "Both options are possible. One view is that the advice of the prime minister is needed for Article 45 of the constitution to be invoked, and the second view is that there is no need for the prime minister's advice in exercising the powers under Article 45 of the constitution."

The expert added that the situation would become clearer within the confines of the Supreme Court. When contacted, Barrister Omar Sajjad said Article 45 of the constitution talked about presidential powers while Clause 1 of Article 48 talked about the functions of the president. He said presidential power and presidential functions were two separate entities, and advice was needed for the president to use the powers bequeathed to him under the constitution.

A second senior leader of the PPP when approached on the issue of whether the convicted prime minister could advise the president to seek pardon said that the question was still a premature one as the case was ongoing in the Supreme Court.

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