Eight months after ex-Senator Nehal Hashmi stated derogatory words and threats against the court, the Supreme Court has conclusively given it’s reply, when it concluded the case against the former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) member, by deeming him guilty of contempt of court, and sentenced him to one-month imprisonment and barred him from holding public office for the next five years.

Some liberal journalists have condemned the arrest on the basis that the contempt of court was applied despite repeated apologies-an unusual practice since the Court usually forgives after a rescinding of the offending statement. However, in this case, Hashmi’s speech was not your common grievance against the court, but it bordered on endangering the spirit of law and order. It is the most principle factor of justice that the court be able to function without threat, fear or pressure, and that decisions in this country should not be governed by blackmail by politicians. As enraged as Hashmi was with the Judicial Investigation Team (JIT)’s treatment, to go ahead and stoop to the level of making threats against the Court’s and the JIT’s children, this renders in the field of incitement of violence and complete disregard for the law.

It is telling too that PML-N out rightly rejected Hashmi’s statements and expelled him from the party in June, soon after the Supreme Court took suo moto action to hear the case. He has been condemned by many members of the party, and PML-N information minister Maryam Aurangezeb has clarified that he does not represent the views of the parties. Although in 2017, the on-goings of the Hashmi case did not stop Nawaz Sharif from speaking out against the court, it remains to be seen whether the criminal sentence of the ex-senator will affect the mass campaign of Nawaz Sharif and his repeated criticism of the court. The disowning of Nehal Hashmi shows that while Nawaz Sharif may not stop, there is certainly a line that PML-N does not cross.

While Hashmi’s sentence makes sense, the Supreme Court’s judgment, like most judgments by the Superior court nowadays, leaves us with questions. Contempt of court has always been a vague point of law, left to the whims of the Court, which sometimes ignores verbal assaults upon it, and sometimes takes strict action. Will the court also hold people in contempt who openly went against the court but have large public support, such as Khadim Rizivi in the Faizabad Dharna? It seems unlikely.