The first family has no dearth of loyalists. They vie with each other to be known as the most ardent practitioners of the more-loyal-than-the-king mantra. But if there was ever a line between being servile and being vile, Senator Nehal Hashmi crossed it in a speech he made to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) workers on May 28, 2017.
Video footage shows Hashmi in a fit of fury, threatening to not spare those who are holding Nawaz Sharif and his family accountable for corruption allegations. “You are making the life of the prime minister difficult; the Pakistani nation will make it difficult for you to live,” he said, pointing a threatening finger but not naming anyone in particular. “We will arrange the day of judgment for you,” he went on.
The video clip soon went viral. Social media activists of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, whose chairman Imran Khan was also attacked in the speech, was not going to let Hashmi get away with such an act of ostensible intimidation. Hashmi’s own party didn’t find his obsequiousness very endearing either. Almost immediately, he was sent a notice suspending his membership of PMLN; he was also asked to resign from the Senate.
Hashmi, seemingly, had shot himself in the foot. He duly obliged and submitted a handwritten resignation to the Senate chairman. Soon after, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of his speech being construed as a threat to judges hearing the Panama Papers’ case; a criminal case was also registered against him in Karachi on June 4.
Though he will still have to defend himself for committing contempt of court and, in the words of a Supreme Court judge, acting like the “Sicilian Mafia”, Hashmi may avoid arrest and other legal proceedings because he is a senator. Unsurprisingly, he met the Senate chairman and requested that his resignation not be accepted. Defying the judiciary and his own party, Hashmi managed to U-turn his way back into the parliament. Whoever said there are no mistakes in love, forgot there are none in Pakistani politics either.
Particularly, if you are on the right side of it. After all, Hashmi has made similar about-turns in the past. A lawyer by profession, Hashmi became a senator in March 2015. He was also the PMLN’s general secretary in Sindh and the party’s president of Karachi division prior to his recent faux pas.
He was one of the few senior leaders of the PMLN left in the province after the departure of several prominent personalities like Ghous Ali Shah, Abdul Hakeem Baloch, Mumtaz Bhutto, Liaquat Ali Jatoi and Arbab Ghulam Rahim. As such, he had his eyes on the governor house in Sindh when Ishratul Ebad was removed from office. “The last remnant of terrorism has been removed from governor house,” he gloated, perhaps buoyed by media reports that he was a likely candidate to fill the post. That, however, wasn’t to be.
The PMLN disowned his statement, he himself denied saying what he said and a former chief justice of Pakistan was eventually made Sindh governor. For all his troubles, Hashmi only has his party’s public disapproval of him to show.
In private, though, one wonders if the prime minister was really as upset at Hashmi as he made it out to be. There were rumours, as there always are, that Hashmi’s threatening statement was part of a PMLN plan to discredit the joint investigation team probing the Sharif family. If there is any truth to that, it is typical of the ruling party to throw the senator under the bus after the point has been made.
Just like it threw Pervaiz Rasheed under the bus after a daily Dawn story in October last year reported on a meeting between the government and military leadership. Rasheed had to resign as information minister. Just like special assistant to the prime minister Tariq Fatemi was asked to step down following the inquiry committee’s recommendations on the same story. It seems that for every folly, there is always someone else to blame. The first family apparently has no dearth of scapegoats and sacrificial lambs either.
This was originally published in the Herald's July 2017 issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.