As if Nehal Hashmi’s outrageous threats against the judiciary and members of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) were not enough reason to warrant more than a little flak from the party leadership, fellow members and the public at large, his impulse to withdraw his resignation from the Senate is not likely to win any favours for Mr Hashmi or even his party for that matter.

While opposition parties are quick to blame ruling PML-N for this sudden u-turn – they claimed that Mr Hashmi acted on the orders of the party leadership and hence would not face punishment – Mr Hashmi’s retraction of the resignation has put his party in an even more uncomfortable position. If it is seen to have been lax on Mr Hashmi following his outburst, the comments will be seen as accepted by the party.

But even beyond this, while Mr Hashmi’s party membership is suspended, he cannot be a senator for them, which is why his retraction does not make sense. If the party brings him back into the fold, its actions will be seen as an endorsement of the threats levelled by Mr Hashmi. Without the option of reconciliation at hand, it is hoped that PML-N takes the wisest course available – punish Mr Hashmi for his off-hand remarks and ensure that the judiciary and investigative teams feel safe carrying out the duties and roles required by them.

A National Committee on ethics and discipline has been tasked by the PM to look into Nehal Hashmi’s comments, but whether the party will take concrete action is still anyone’s guess. A slap on the wrist will not be sufficient, and it is hoped that PML-N is not merely buying time in the hopes that the matter will be forgotten after some time.

Threatening the judiciary, investigators and their families to prevent them from carrying out their sacrosanct duties should not be tolerable in a functional democracy, even if the culprits are the members of the ruling party. Opposition parties have a duty to keep this issue in the limelight until PML-N has a conclusive answer to give regarding how Mr Hashmi thought his comments appropriate.

Nehal Hashmi went far beyond the line and for this he should be punished. Resigning from the senator’s seat would be the decent thing to do, but with this retraction it is clear that the politician has little remorse for his actions. PML-N and the Prime Minister in particular need to take a strong stance on this, or risk being marked as facilitators of threats issued against public servants and their families.