Pakistan’s top legal official will be summoned to Lahore’s High Court if its federal ombudsman for women’s protection fails to appear before a judge today on contempt charges.

A spokesman for Yasmin Abbasi this morning refused to confirm her attendance. She is due in court today to explain why she failed to halt her investigation into the alleged harassment of a woman after the victim successfully petitioned for the case to be heard by a judge.

The ombudsman has failed to appear on three occasions and claimed the court  does not have the authority to summon her. Her stance not only infuriated the judge but raised a serious constitutional question over whether the Ombudsman is accountable in law?

According to legal experts she could face arrest and jail if found guilty of contemt but earlier today the president of Lahore’s High Court Bar Association said the judge will probably first call the Federal Secretary Law as the Ombudsman’s appointing authority to explain her stance.

The conflict began in November after the Federal Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Yasmeen Abbasi was investigating a complaint by a woman against a fellow employee. The alleged victim however decided she would prefer her complaint to be dealt with as a criminal matter and successfully petitioned the High Court to order a legal inquiry. The judge ordered Ms Abbasi to stop her inquiry and hand over the matter.

In the last hearing, in December last year, Lahore’s High Court Justice Syed Masnoor Ali Shah ordered Islamabad SSP to ensure the Ombudsman’s presence and issued a contempt notice under section 17 of Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 when she failed to appear. A law officer told the court a registrar of her office insisted the high court could not summon her.

Lahore High Court Bar Association President Pir Masood Chishti said the Ombudsman’s refusal amounted to an ‘attack on the judiciary