The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday, after a particularly fiery exchange with the attorney general (AG), decided to open a case against PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi.
Issuing Hashmi a show-cause notice for maligning the judiciary and summoning him again on June 5, the court appointed AG Ashtar Ausaf as prosecutor in the case and ordered him to compile relevant evidence in connection with Hashmi's recent outburst against judiciary.
The chief justice had on Wednesday taken suo motu notice of a video of Hashmi railing against "those investigating" the prime minister's family and threatening them with "consequences".
Justice Saqib Nisar had summoned the senator to appear before the special bench overseeing the implementation of the Panama Papers verdict.
"Are you aware of what is going on around you?" the AG, who was present for the hearing, was asked by the bench.
Hashmi's video had stirred up a nationwide controversy after it went 'viral' on social media. In the video, the senator had warned that those conducting the investigation would be "taken to task".
"It seems that the government's self-proclaimed spokespersons let no opportunity for maligning the courts slip by," Justice Ejaz Afzal remarked.
"It is not our custom to bring our children into our fights," Justice Sheikh Azmat chimed in, referring to the senator's threats. "Mr Attorney General, what kind of people involve children in their fights?" he asked.
"The cowardly kind," offered AG 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 wryly.
"We have faced military dictatorships, but even they did not dare threaten our children," Justice Afzal said to the AG. "Our children are being threatened under your government," he observed.
"You stayed quiet for two days after Hashmi's speech and then sprung into action [once it made headlines] fearing the Supreme Court's retribution," he added.
"We constituted the joint investigation team (JIT) and we are not afraid of any type of consequences," Justice Ejaz Afzal said.
"We were the ones who issued instructions to the Supreme Court registrar," he said, responding to a widely-circulated rumour that the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the State Bank were 'pressured' by a caller — who identified himself as the Supreme Court registrar — into submitting the names of two JIT members who have repeatedly been accused of bias by the ruling Sharif family.
"We know who's capable and who can deliver results," he added, observing that some things were being blown out of proportion to present a misleading view of the process.
"Your government has been creating problems for us," he warned, slamming the "misleading campaign" being run in connection with the JIT.
"Strict action will be taken against whoever mocks the judiciary," he added.
PML-N's general dissatisfaction with the Panama Papers JIT
Earlier, Hussain Nawaz, the prime minister's elder son, had objected to the inclusion of two individuals — Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s Bilal Rasool and State Bank of Pakistan’s Amer Aziz — in the Supreme Court-appointed JIT, accusing them of being "close" to the PML-N’s political rivals.
However, his objections were turned down by the Supreme Court.
"We are not going to remove any JIT member on mere conjecture unless something concrete comes up because the prime minister is the one being investigated," Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who heads the three-judge implementation bench of the Supreme Court, had said on Monday as he discarded the appeal.
Hussain had subsequently appeared before the investigators for the second time on Tuesday, where he was reportedly grilled for almost five hours.
Following Hussain's interrogation, PML-N leaders had held a press conference, once again accusing the two members of the JIT of harassing the prime minister's son.
Senator Hashmi's outburst, which appeared to reflect the party's conviction of the JIT's bias, included the warning: "Those who are scrutinising them [Sharif and his sons], we will not spare you."
"Those grilling [the family] ... [be warned that] we will arrange the day of judgment for you."
"You are making the life of the prime minister difficult; the Pakistani nation will make it difficult for you to live," he added, without taking any names.
Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb later said that the party does not support what Hashmi said and that it was his "personal opinion".
She said the prime minister believes in accountability, adding that he has sought an explanation from Hashmi for his remarks.