ISLAMABAD: Already suspended from the party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Nehal Hashmi on Tuesday did an about-face over his resignation, creating another potentially embarrassing situation for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Mr Hashmi informed Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani in writing that he had decided to withdraw the resignation, submitted last week after the release of a video clip showing him hurling threats against the judiciary.
But soon after, a delegation of ruling party legislators, led by Raja Zafarul Haq, requested the Senate chairman to accept his earlier resignation, since he had already been suspended from the party.
PML-N forms body to formally expel ‘rogue’ lawmaker; PTI says drama against judiciary, JIT has been unmasked
Mr Rabbani, however, told the PML-N members that he would announce his ruling on the matter today (Wednesday).
Constitutional and legal experts say that the Senate chairman cannot declare Mr Hashmi’s seat vacant, since there is no such provision in the Constitution or the relevant laws.
Meanwhile, in his capacity as PML-N president, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif constituted a five-member “National Ethics and Disciplinary Committee” to conduct a probe against Mr Hashmi and submit its report within five days.
The committee is headed by Raja Zafarul Haq and consists of Barrister Zafarullah Khan, Dr Asif Kirmani, Senator Nuzhat Sadiq and Khawaja Zaheer Ahmed.
PML-N Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan, who was also among the members who called on the Senate chairman on Tuesday, told Dawn that under the party constitution, no member could be expelled from the party without giving him or her an opportunity to defend themselves.
He revealed that the party leadership was extremely angry with Mr Hashmi — first for his tirade against the judiciary and then for withdrawing his resignation from the Senate.
Mr Khan termed Mr Hashmi’s decision to withdraw his resignation “ditching the prime minister” — who had done him a favour by having him elected senator on a Punjab seat, despite the fact that Mr Hashmi was originally from Sindh.
Barrister Zafarullah Khan told Dawn that PM Sharif had constituted the committee as per Section 147 of the party constitution, which described the process of initiating any extreme disciplinary action, such as expulsion from the party.
He said the committee would provide Mr Hashmi a chance to present his point of view and he might be called to appear before the committee.
Responding to a question, Barrister Khan said the prime minister must be “upset and unhappy” as Mr Hashmi’s actions had damaged the party’s cause.
Both Mr Khan and Barrister Zafarullah, however, admitted that despite his expulsion, Mr Hashmi could retain his Senate seat, since the Constitution does not give a party leader the power to de-seat a legislator for violating party discipline.
In his application seeking withdrawal of his resignation, Mr Hashmi had informed the Senate chairman that he had “furnished” his resignation under “quite unusual circumstances”.
“It now necessitates its immediate withdrawal as it was completely in under stressful atmosphere,” Mr Hashmi wrote in his fresh application to the Senate chairman.
“Therefore, due to pendency of judicial proceedings against me, I have after due deliberations, decided to withdraw my resignation to prove my innocence with a view to continue my responsibilities as senator with immediate effect,” Mr Hashmi concludes.
The surprise move provided opposition parties another opportunity to attack the ruling party and the prime minister.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) spokesperson Shafqat Mehmood said that Mr Hashmi’s plea to the Senate chairman had “[unmasked the] whole melodrama against superior judiciary and the joint investigation team (JIT), directed and produced by the PML-N.”
“It is an indisputable fact that Nehal Hashmi’s contrived speech was a part of the ruling party’s stratagem,” he said, adding that the PML-N had been plugging away to impede investigation and make the JIT controversial.
When the incendiary video of Mr Hashmi emerged, Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb had stated that it was his “personal opinion”, which had nothing to do with the PML-N, the Sharif family or the government.
Later, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a brief handout, stating that Mr Hashmi had been summoned by PM Sharif for an explanation.
It said that Dr Kirmani had conveyed to Mr Hashmi that the prime minister was extremely angry over his remarks. Mr Hashmi was issued a “show-cause notice” and was informed about the party leadership’s decision of suspending his basic party membership.
According to Dr Kirmani, Mr Hashmi had been directed by the prime minister to resign from the Senate and the senator submitted his handwritten resignation to the Senate secretariat that evening.
Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2017