SC disqualifies Nehal Hashmi, orders one-month jail term for contempt

Supreme Court had taken notice of PML-N senator's contemptuous remarks on May 31, 2017

Qamber Zaidi

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday announced its verdict in the contempt case of Senator Nehal Hashmi, sentencing him to one-month imprisonment and Rs50,000 fine. The apex court also ruled that Hashmi stood disqualified from holding public office for a period of five years under Article 63 (1)(g) of the constitution.

The Supreme Court had served Hashmi with a contempt notice following a speech to workers in Karachi last year, in which he had threatened the prime minister’s unidentified ‘enemies’.

Hashmi being transported by police officials after the conviction. Photo: Geo News

The three-member bench of headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justices Dost Mohammad and Maqbool Baqar announced the 2-1 decision. A dissenting note was authored by Justice Dost.

Following the order, Nehal Hashmi was taken into police custody by officials present in court. He was taken to the Secretariat Police Station and later shifted to Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi.

After the sentence was announced, senior lawyer Faroog Naseem spoke with Geo News stating that Hashmi retained to the right to an appeal before a larger bench.

Former attorney general, Irfan Qadir called the decision “unusual”. He added that “nothing is automatic,” when asked if Hashmi is now a disqualified parliamentarian.

State Interior Minister, Tallal Chaudhry regretted the decision and questioned if others who committee contempt would also be taken to task, or is the PML-N the only target. “You cannot force respect through fear,” he added.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Fawad Chaudhry said Hashmi had not threatened one person but the entire system. 

'Spewed fire towards the wrong direction'

While deciding on whether the Hashmi's remarks amounted to contempt of court, the judges stated in their verdict that the PML-N leader had decided not to contest the proceedings and had submitted an unconditional apology. 

The court, however, in its detailed verdict, stated that the former senator attacked the judiciary, the judges and those who were tasked by the apex court to investigate allegations of criminal conduct on the part of Hashmi's political leader, Nawaz Sharif and his family. 

"Through the relevant speech made by him on 28.05.2017, the respondent had established that he is a firebrand speaker and the tone, the pitch and the delivery of the offending words bear an ample testimony to that but unfortunately on that day he had spewed fire towards a wrong direction," said the verdict. 

The verdict also said that having launched a verbal tirade and issuing threats, Hashmi himself realised his behaviour to be "improper, unwise and imprudent". 

The court further termed the controversial speech by the PML-N senator as an effort to obstruct, interfere and prejudice the proceedings pending before the apex court and the JIT investigating the Panama Papers case. 

Decision as per law: CJP

Meanwhile, hearing the Article 62 disqualification duration case separately, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar remarked that the decision in the Hashmi case is as per the law. 

He was responding to one of the petitioners' counsel's statement that the Hashmi verdict has upset him. 

'Mercy of court' 

During the height of the Panama Papers saga, Hashmi, in a speech to workers in Karachi in May last year, had threatened the prime minister's unidentified 'enemies'.

Taking notice of the issue the next day, the Supreme Court had served him a contempt notice for his controversial remarks, reportedly aimed at the apex court and Panama Papers case Joint Investigation Team.

On January 24, Hashmi had left himself at the mercy of the apex court after submitting an unconditional apology. Hashmi's counsel Kamran Murtaza had submitted the apology following which the decision on the case was reserved.

As the hearing went under way on Jan 24, the Supreme Court objected to Hashmi’s apology, in which he stated that he respects the court and is ready to sacrifice his life for it.

Justice Khosa remarked that "you were going to make our life miserable on earth [as per your speech]", adding that "whatever you say to us is fine but you mentioned our children as well".

In July last year, Hashmi was charged for contempt of court following his controversial remarks.

'We will observe your day of judgment'

Nehal Hashmi's speech in Karachi which led to the contempt convcition today 

Hashmi, in a speech to workers in Karachi at a Youm-e-Takbeer event which surfaced on May 31, had threatened the prime minister's unidentified 'enemies'.

"The one you are investigating is the PM's son," roared Hashmi.

Without identifying who he was referring to, Hashmi said, “You will not be spared; you are in service now but remember you will retire tomorrow.”

"Those investigating us [must know] we will observe your day of judgment,” he stated further.

Soon after the video emerged, Hashmi was stripped of his party membership and was made to resign from his Senate seat too. However, the resignation was later retracted by Hashmi.

The apex court in its suo motu notification taken the next day mentioned the quotes by the senator and stated: “ That by the way of the aforesaid speech you threatened judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan their families and children and members of the [Panama case] JIT and their families and children.”

Detailed verdict