ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that a systematic smear campaign was being run against the court and the joint investigation team, and the government was acting like Sicilian mafia.

The Special Bench, set up for implementation of apex court’s Aril 20 judgment in Panama leaks case, after a fiery exchange with the Attorney General of Pakistan, decided to open a contempt of court case against PML-N senator Nehal Hashmi.

Hashmi, a Karachi-based lawyer who was elected senator from Punjab on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ticket, is under fire for issuing grave threats to those carrying out investigation against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.

The ruling party was force disassociate from the loyalist’s outburst at a Youm-e-Takbeer event in Karachi wherein he warned that those conducting the investigation will be “taken to task” for grilling the PM’s family.

Nehal Hashmi also said, “Listen! You ask the son of Nawaz Sharif to submit his account detail. Who are you to ask him [Hussain Nawaz] his account details?

“We are workers of Nawaz Sharif, those who have made Sharif family accountable [earlier] and [those] doing so [now] will not be spared... we will make an example of them.

“You are in service today and will retire tomorrow. We, the Pakistani nation will make it difficult for you and your family to live in this country, like you are making it difficult for an honourable and conscientious prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.”

As the video of his irresponsible and outrageous speech, apparently against JIT members and Panama case judges, went viral on media on Wednesday, there was a hue and cry – especially by the opposition.

The prime minister was forced to make Hashmi resign from his senatorial seat while his party membership was also suspended and he was asked to explain his position.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan also took notice of the issue and the matter was fixed before the three-judge Special Bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, which is also overseeing the probe by the joint investigation team (JIT) into financial matters of the Sharif family.

In Thursday’s hearing the judges seemed much annoyed, and they came down hard on Hashmi over his menacing remarks.

Trying to explain his position, Nehal Hashmi said, “I was fasting and would never dream of referring to judges in such a way.”

The judges said they are fasting too, and asked Hashmi not to dream anything.

Later, Hashmi wanted to say something but the bench did not allow. Issuing him a show cause notice under Contempt of Court Ordinance for maligning the judiciary, the court ordered the senator to file written explanation by Monday (June 5).

Attorney General for Pakistan, who has been appointed as the prosecutor in this case, was directed to collect the material and also see if the criminal proceedings could be taken against the accused.

AGP-judges dialogue

Earlier during the hearing, head of the bench, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked the attorney general if he was aware how the JIT members and the judges were ridiculed. “Are you aware of what is going on around you?” the judge asked.

“It seems that the government’s self-proclaimed spokespersons let no opportunity for maligning the courts slip by,” Justice Ejaz remarked.

In an implicit rejection of the notion that Hashmi and some other PML-N leaders were uttering contemptuous words on their own, the court observed that a systematic campaign was being run by the government against judges of the apex court and the JIT.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen said not only Hashmi but some cabinet members and ruling party leaders too have been doing this. “The Cabinet members and some individuals have launched a campaign against judiciary,” he remarked.

AGP Ashtar Ausaf contended that when the Panama leaks proceedings started he had requested that the ‘trial outside the court’ should not go on. “I still urge you to ban media talk [on Panama Papers],” he said.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, another member of bench, said it is very sorry that your government is doing all this.

“It is not our custom to bring our children into our fights,” Justice Azmat said, referring to the Hashmi’s speech, who had also said that they will also make the life miserable for the children of those holding Sharifs accountable.

“Mr Attorney General, what kind of people involve children in their fights?” he asked.

“The cowardly kind,” offered AGP Ashtar Ausaf.

“No, not cowards — it is terrorists and the mafia who do such things,” responded Justice Azmat.

“Congratulations Mr Attorney General: it seems that your government has joined the Sicilian Mafia!” he added.

“We have faced military dictatorships, but even they did not dare threaten our children,” Justice Afzal said. “Our children are being threatened under your government,” he told the AGP.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan addressing the attorney general said that “the person standing next to you is the senator of ruling party”.

Justice Afzal said, “You [the government] stayed quiet for two days after Hashmi’s speech and then sprung into action [once it made headlines] fearing the Supreme Court’s retribution.”

“We constituted the joint investigation team and we are not afraid…,” Justice Ejaz Afzal said, adding that the minimum price for respect and dignity of this institution is their life.

“We don’t care about any kind of consequences. If we were scared, we would not have been here. We have appointed the JIT members to investigate in view of the Panama leaks judgment,” the judge went on to say.

“We were the ones who issued instructions to the Supreme Court registrar,” he said, in response to a rumour that the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the State Bank were pressured by a caller, who claimed of being the SC registrar, into submitting the names of two JIT members who have repeatedly been accused of bias by the Sharif family.

“We know who’s capable and who can deliver results. We told the registrar that such and such persons would be appointed. Having considered their expertise and experience, we have passed the order,” justice Ejaz said.

He added, “We have kept our eyes open. We see, hear and read. Many things have been exaggerated, magnified and blown out of proportion, but we know what to do.”

The judge said “your government has been creating problems for us”, as he slammed the “misleading campaign” being run in connection with the JIT.

Since last month they have noticed that the court was being ridiculed and unduly criticised, he said. “Let this element of ridicule be taken out once for all. We will take sternest action against those doing this,” Justice Ejaz Afzal warned.

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Later, Hashmi wanted to say something but the bench did not allow. Issuing him a show cause notice under Contempt of Court Ordinance for maligning the judiciary, the court ordered the senator to file written explanation by Monday (June 5).

Attorney General for Pakistan, who has been appointed as the prosecutor in this case, was directed to collect the material and also see if the criminal proceedings could be taken against the accused.

AGP-judges dialogue

Earlier during the hearing, head of the bench, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked the attorney general if he was aware how the JIT members and the judges were ridiculed. “Are you aware of what is going on around you?” the judge asked.

“It seems that the government’s self-proclaimed spokespersons let no opportunity for maligning the courts slip by,” Justice Ejaz remarked.

In an implicit rejection of the notion that Hashmi and some other PML-N leaders were uttering contemptuous words on their own, the court observed that a systematic campaign was being run by the government against judges of the apex court and the JIT.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen said not only Hashmi but some cabinet members and ruling party leaders too have been doing this. “The Cabinet members and some individuals have launched a campaign against judiciary,” he remarked.

AGP Ashtar Ausaf contended that when the Panama leaks proceedings started he had requested that the ‘trial outside the court’ should not go on. “I still urge you to ban media talk [on Panama Papers],” he said.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, another member of bench, said it is very sorry that your government is doing all this.

“It is not our custom to bring our children into our fights,” Justice Azmat said, referring to the Hashmi’s speech, who had also said that they will also make the life miserable for the children of those holding Sharifs accountable.

“Mr Attorney General, what kind of people involve children in their fights?” he asked.

“The cowardly kind,” offered AGP Ashtar Ausaf.

“No, not cowards — it is terrorists and the mafia who do such things,” responded Justice Azmat.

“Congratulations Mr Attorney General: it seems that your government has joined the Sicilian Mafia!” he added.

“We have faced military dictatorships, but even they did not dare threaten our children,” Justice Afzal said. “Our children are being threatened under your government,” he told the AGP.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan addressing the attorney general said that “the person standing next to you is the senator of ruling party”.

Justice Afzal said, “You [the government] stayed quiet for two days after Hashmi’s speech and then sprung into action [once it made headlines] fearing the Supreme Court’s retribution.”

“We constituted the joint investigation team and we are not afraid…,” Justice Ejaz Afzal said, adding that the minimum price for respect and dignity of this institution is their life.

“We don’t care about any kind of consequences. If we were scared, we would not have been here. We have appointed the JIT members to investigate in view of the Panama leaks judgment,” the judge went on to say.

“We were the ones who issued instructions to the Supreme Court registrar,” he said, in response to a rumour that the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the State Bank were pressured by a caller, who claimed of being the SC registrar, into submitting the names of two JIT members who have repeatedly been accused of bias by the Sharif family.

“We know who’s capable and who can deliver results. We told the registrar that such and such persons would be appointed. Having considered their expertise and experience, we have passed the order,” justice Ejaz said.

He added, “We have kept our eyes open. We see, hear and read. Many things have been exaggerated, magnified and blown out of proportion, but we know what to do.”

The judge said “your government has been creating problems for us”, as he slammed the “misleading campaign” being run in connection with the JIT.

Since last month they have noticed that the court was being ridiculed and unduly criticised, he said. “Let this element of ridicule be taken out once for all. We will take sternest action against those doing this,” Justice Ejaz Afzal warned.