Was Nehal Hashmi’s outburst orchestrated by the PML-N leadership?

Published: June 1, 2017
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At a time when the PM's fate is hanging by a thread, Nehal Hashmi had the audacity to sprout words which could potentially seal Nawaz Sharif’s fate.

When things are going bad for you, the last thing you should do is issue a threat to those who are controlling your fate in any way. This bit is common sense, a sense that does not seem to be common. When I saw the video of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senator, Nehal Hashmi, openly threatening the Supreme Court judges and members of the joint investigation team (JIT), I was literally dumbfounded.

At a time when the fate of the prime minister is hanging by a thread, this guy had the audacity to sprout words which could potentially seal Nawaz Sharif’s fate. The senator did not limit his threats to those who are carrying out the investigation, but also went on to include their families in his threats.

Even from a completely normative angle, threatening institutions like the judiciary is completely wrong because at the end of the day, the judiciary is the ultimate arbitrator in the country. Judicial orders have to be followed, even if one assumes that they are wrong, because a complete breakdown of law and order would occur otherwise. Likewise, the members of the JIT are merely doing their duty and threatening them is tantamount to the obstruction of justice.

So what could be the reason behind this outburst? Was the senator’s outburst orchestrated by the PML-N leadership? Was it a way to communicate to the judges and the JIT the possible consequences of what they are doing?

I do think that the statements of some of the PML-N ministers showing discontent over the way JIT is investigating have played a role; however, I doubt that the PML-N leadership was directly involved in this outburst. While it is true that some of their ministers have been raising objections on the way JIT is conducting the investigation, this outburst was more of an exercise in sycophancy and the need to show the utmost loyalty to the prime minister. The senator was aware of the general discontent of the PML-N leadership with the on-going investigation and therefore got encouraged and indulged in the stupid outburst.

Of course, it has backfired and the retribution has been swift. The PML-N leadership has taken strict action and the senator has ended up losing his seat followed by him handing in his resignation. As I mentioned before, the PML-N leadership is perhaps not directly responsible, but at the same time, they have created a conducive atmosphere by consistently criticising the on-going investigation. For example, one member lambasted the institutions for going soft on Imran Khan while they adopted a biased approach towards PML-N.

In my opinion, this is the wrong approach from a practical and normative angle. Whether they like that fact that Nawaz is being investigated like this or not, they should refrain from issuing such statements.

To a certain extent, the frustration of the ruling party is understandable because the situation after the Panama leaks in 2016 has developed in such a way that Nawaz is completely cornered. The party is in survival mode and increasingly desperate, and hence prone to making mistakes. I have pointed this out before as well; in reality, the Panama issue is not that big a deal. It has become an issue because of the way Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and some media houses have constantly raised it.

For the past one year, it has seemed like properties bought in the 90s are the single most important problem in Pakistan. There were hundreds of names on that list but only Nawaz is being targeted and his fate is now in the hands of the judiciary.

In a proper functioning democracy, such issues are dealt within the Parliament and if members are not satisfied, they try to impeach the prime minister. Only after removal through impeachment is the executive criminally prosecuted. What happened here is that a judicial route has been followed due to extreme pressure tactics from PTI. This is a wrong precedent to set because in the future, all parties will begin to take even the most trivial issues to the court for the same purpose.

In fact, this practice has already started as PML-N has also filed several legal suits against PTI which has duly reciprocated. The Supreme Court is being overburdened by needless litigation and also becoming politicised in the process. PTI is overlooking a major problem – if it does come into power, its opponents may try to seek Imran’s disqualification on some minor matters in the same way, and they may even succeed.

Elected prime ministers should be removed through proper procedures and not through these routes. We are setting a wrong precedent which could end up undermining not only our democracy but our judiciary as well.

raza.habib

Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (twitter.com/razaraja?lang=en)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.