By suddenly summoning the National Assembly and the Senate sessions Wednesday, the Imran Government did try to look as if being fully prepared and equipped to march on a fast track to substantive legislation.

The day after, however, it failed to collect even the minimum number of MNAs, required for keeping the House in order, when the sitting was summoned at 11 pm. Concerned ministers were not present in the House to answer questions related to their departments. Instead of feeling apologetic about it, a member from the ruling party stood to point out the lack of quorum. Qasim Suri, the deputy speaker, didn’t hesitate to instantly adjourn the House. We had to yawn for two hours to wait for resumption of the House proceedings.

Led by the Minister of Defence, Pervez Khattak, a group of PTI ministers had gone to the chambers, allotted to Shehbaz Sharif for being the opposition leader in the National Assembly. He had gone to London to assist addressing the health problems of his elder brother. In his absence, Khawaja Asif has been leading the PML-N parliamentarians. Raja Zafar-ul-Haq does the same in the Senate and both of them heard the PTI ministers along with a select group of the PML-N leaders.

It was but obvious that the Khattak-led delegation of ministers had gone to the opposition chambers Thursday to seek support for the smooth passage of a bill that the government wanted to introduce and get passed in haste. The proposed bill intends to remove a set of ambiguities that a three-member bench of the Supreme Court had spotted while hearing a petition, filed against the three-year extension in the tenure of the current Army Chief.

An urgently summoned meeting of the Federal Cabinet had reportedly approved the draft of the proposed bill Wednesday. The government has yet to officially release the draft of the proposed bill.

Through calculated leaks, however, we are facilitated to imagine as if certain amendments in the Pakistan Army Act would now empower the Prime Minister to extend the tenure of an Army Chief, maximum for three years, if the need be, on his or her discretion.

I have it from reliable sources that even the Khattak-led delegation had not gone to meet the PML-N leaders with an appropriate copy of the cabinet-approved draft of the proposed law. Without getting into” ifs and buts,” though, the PML-N leaders ensured the government delegation that their legislators would support the bill, intending to furnish a comprehensive legal cover to three-year extension in the tenure of the current COAS. The PPP also looks set to extend its support and the proposed bill might get passed by the National Assembly, without much ado, during the Friday-sitting of the lower house.

The manner, both the major opposition parties, had agreed “in principle” to support the government on a highly sensitive and delicate matter, forced one to seriously wonder as to why the government took so long to approach the opposition. The 3-member bench of the Supreme Court had asked for the proposed law in the last week of November 2019. Instead of focusing on furnishing the required legislation, the government preferred to wait for the retirement of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, the former Chief Justice, who had headed the 3-member bench.

Soon after his retirement, the government filed a “review petition.” Through the same it rather raised fundamental questions and visibly appeared seeking a blanket approval of the decision related to the three-year extension, without going through the legal and procedural ropes, comprehensively prescribed by a clearly defined law.

The language and the content of the “review petition” triggered a flood of conspiratorial stories in Islamabad. Insidious whispers attempted us to believe that close to leaving his office the former Chief Justice had rather opted to go for a “reckless overreach.” Wagging tongues also began preparing us for a “massive showdown” between the Executive and the Judiciary.

We had already endured such a showdown for almost ten months in 2007. The dismissal of former Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, had triggered it. General Musharraf felt compelled to handle the situation by enforcing Emergency-Plus in November of that year.

In spite of being an incurable cynic, I refused to imagine that history was set to repeat itself. The pragmatic types lead both the PML-N and the PPP these days. After spending so many years in power games, they know their limits.

Appreciating the same limits, they refused to join the Azadi March that Maulana Fazlur Rehman had brought to Islamabad last year, with the pronounced demand of seeking the resignation of Imran Khan. They fear X-factors and diligently want to protect “the system.” Prime Minister Imran Khan, in effect, did not want to take them on board. He continues to perceive them as “looters and plunderers,” deserving no mercy.

He too is now discovering his limits, however, while heading a government that has to deliver through an “elected parliament” and function under multiple constitutional restraints.

But, we remain a frighteningly polarized society. The “us or them” divide facilitates the occasional surge of conspiratorial stories, compelling most of us to prepare for doomsday scenarios.

Yet, the Imran government could have easily prevented the recent surge of such stories by instantly opting to furnish an appropriate legislation, when the Supreme Court had asked for it in November last year.

The pragmatic behavior of the opposition has also not motivated the PTI hawks to switch to a reconciliatory mode. Through a lethal intervention during the closing hours of the National Assembly sitting Thursday, the youthful minister of communication, Murad Saeed, rather conveyed an unforgiving message.

Through a point of order, Khurram Dastagir Khan of the PML-N, tried to remind the House that the communication blockade in Indian Occupied Kashmir had completed 150 days. Doing this, he also criticized the government for apparently not doing enough to assuage the misery of 8 million Kashmiris. The foreign minister was not present in the House. But Murad Saeed, of late, has taken the task of defending the PTI government on all fronts. Like an over-protective mother hen, Saeed sprang to react viciously.

Instead of highlighting various initiatives, the PTI government might have taken to help Kashmiris, the communication minister launched a ruthless attack to remind the world that Dastagir’s leader, Nawaz Sharif, used to invite Indian tycoons like Sajjan Jindal to his residence, without a valid visa and appropriate security clearance, as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, “while Kashmir was burning after the killing of Burhan Wani.”

With utmost contempt, he also claimed that Nawaz Sharif used to slavishly listen to the dictates of “do more” during his visits to the US and he never dared to name Kulbushan, an Indian spy caught in Balochistan while busy in sponsoring and promoting subversive activities.

Khurram Dastagir had used English to express his concerns regarding Kashmir. Murad Saeed did not forgive it either. Almost explicit he rather sounded as if suggesting that the former Commerce Minister of the PML-N government deliberately used a “foreign language” to promote an allegedly “anti-Pakistan narrative” to please inimical forces among the international community.

The unforgiving speech of Murad Saeed clearly showed that the PTI government did not feel too thankful to the opposition, especially the PML-N, for the cooperation it had decided to extend for the quick and smooth passage of a highly significant law. We are set to endure many more days of either/or showdowns between the government and the opposition.