The high drama involving the troubled PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi took a new turn on Tuesday after Hashmi took back the resignation he had sent to the Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani a few days back on the order of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Hashmi had to hand in his resignation on May 31 after a video went viral in which he was hurling implied yet obvious insults and threats at the judiciary and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing into the ruling family’s offshore properties in line with the apex court’s April 20 verdict in Panamagate case.
After the emergence of the controversial speech, the ruling PML-N had suspended Hashmi’s party membership. The Supreme Court’s three-judge bench overseeing the JIT had also taken suo motu notice of Hashmi’s speech and served him a show cause notice.
According to the procedure Hashmi was to appear before the Senate chairman to verify his resignation. Hashmi failed to appear before Rabbani on the first appointment but Hashmi told The Express Tribune on Monday that he would appear before Rabbani on Wednesday (today) to offer resignation.
However on Tuesday the PML-N leader changed his plan as he requested Rabbani not to accept his earlier resignation. “It is to bring in your kind notice that the resignation in question had to be furnished under quite unusual circumstances. It now necessitates its immediate withdrawal as it was completely under stressful atmosphere,” Hashmi said in his application to Rabbani on Tuesday.
The PML-N’s Parliamentary Party led by the PML-N chairman and Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq visited the Senate chairman’s office to request him to accept Hashmi’s resignation, only to learn that the senator had himself withdrawn his resignation.
“Senator Nehal Hashmi, on his own accord, appeared in person in the chamber of the chairman Senate on Tuesday and submitted an application for withdrawal of his resignation. The process has been initiated and the matter is under consideration of the house, an order in this regard is expected to be announced in the house tomorrow,” Senate Secretariat said in a statement on Tuesday.
When contacted, Hashmi refused to speak on the withdrawal of his resignation, saying he would speak his mind sometime later.
However, the PML-N was quick to detach itself from the Hashmi resignation withdrawal episode with Senator Mushahidullah Khan declaring that: “He should have stood firm on his decision and resigned. The parliamentary party does not approve of what Hashmi has done.”
Later, the PM, in his capacity as the PML-N’s president, set up a ‘National Ethics and Discipline Committee of PML-N’ ‘to launch probe against Nehal Hashmi’ under the chair of Raja Zafarul Haq.
After the new development, the opposition parties also strongly took on the government. “It is part of a plot hatched against judiciary and the JIT by the PML-N leadership,” the PTI’s Shafqat Mahmood said in a statement.
The PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan also smelled a rat and said ‘the affair was staged at the PM’s behest”.
A result of PML-N’s internal rift
However, some sources said Hashmi’s U-turn could be seen in the context of serious internal divisions in the ruling party over its approach towards the JIT investigating Panamagate.
While the seasoned leaders in PML-N are not in favour of confrontation with the institutions involved in the inquiry of mega corruption scandal, the hardliners believe otherwise and want the PML-N leadership to toughen its stance.
Discussions with informed party circles suggest that some PML-N leaders of hawkish disposition are silently backing Hashmi to stand firm and not to back off—in what many believe is the looming political storm, taking the tiff between the government and judiciary to a new level.
“Do you think such a huge deviation from stance is possible without the support and patronage of party circles?” questioned a PML-N leader, requesting anonymity. He said Hashmi decided to adopt dissenting course after getting assurance that he had sufficient support within the party.
The party hardliners argue that Hashmi, being a diehard party loyalist, is admired in the party ranks and his ouster from the Senate would not go down well with the PML-N’s lower tiers but also weaken the party. The loyalists also argue that Hashmi was previously ignored for the slot of Sindh governor and now removing him from Senate would fuel further resentment in party circles.
Among the PML-N’s diehard loyalists who are known for taking a tough line on given issues include Mushahidullah, Khawaja Asif, Saad Rafique, Rana Sanaullah and Pervaiz Rashid.
On the other hand, a reconciliatory group, including Raja Zafarul Haq, Ishaq Dar, Ahsan Iqbal and Chaudhry Nisar, reportedly believes that the government should not lock horns with JIT and judiciary.
Recently, the PML-N leadership had barred its leaders from making strong statements against the JIT and judiciary before the fresh spate of tension between the government and Panamagate inquiry panel surfaced after a picture of PM’s son, Hussain Nawaz, being interrogated by the JIT got leaked to media.
The PM was scheduled to discuss PML-N’s ‘moderate’ strategy regarding JIT in the Parliamentary Party meeting he convened in his capacity as PML-N chief in Murree today (Wednesday). But a PM House statement said the meeting has been cancelled due to ‘inclement weather,’ in what comes as an indication of escalating tension between state institutions.