Things remained chaotic at the national assembly Friday, but they did not turn as ugly as I had expected. At the outset, Shahbaz Sharif, the opposition leader, took the floor to lament over the arrest of his niece, Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

Of late, she had been attracting crowds in various cities of Central Punjab. Her attempts to ignite grassroots activism with mass contact rallies and diligent use of social media also projected her emerging as the true heir of her father’s political legacy.

The PML-N President mostly kept himself aloof from her vigorous initiatives, though.

Friday, Shahbaz Sharif did sound ‘owning’ her activism, but only to an extent. He mostly focused on building and promoting the story that Prime Minister Imran Khan did not have the will and any viable strategy to deal with an ominous crisis that Modi government had ignited by revoking Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Perhaps his government fully knew what Modi had been up to, but it could not develop a strategy to prevent it.

Shahbaz Sharif went on to claim that even after the abrogation of Article 370, Imran Khan remained clueless about how to deal with its consequences. “He desperately needed a diversion.”

The PML-N president kept stressing that the arrest of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, from a cell of Kot Lakhpatt Jail of Lahore Thursday, where she had gone to meet her father along with her kids, “furnished the required diversion.”

The younger brother of Nawaz Sharif also claimed that her arrest before the eyes of the jailed PML-N leader was “staged to break the will” of former prime minister. The Sharifs, however, will not capitulate to bullying, “even if all of them were arrested and sent to jail for long terms.”

In the absence of, Murad Saeed, a feisty spokesperson of the rage with which the PTI defends its corruption-hating narrative, Shafqat Mehmud, the minister of education, was assigned to respond from the treasury benches.

Otherwise considered a “softy sober type,” Shafqat Mehmud tried hard to act aggressive and angry. Most people, crowding the PML-N these days, he declared with contempt, “were not politicians but criminals.”

They compulsively plundered and ruthlessly abused the power while governing Punjab and later the rest of the country, almost non-stop since 1985.

With self-pleasing pride, Shafqat Mehmud recalled that the PTI had been waging a relentless war against corruption for more than two decades. It will show no lenience while nabbing the corrupt types.

Almost each member of the Sharif family, Mehmud went on, now needs to explain the “real sources” of their accumulated wealth and furnish money trail, justifying buying of luxury flats in London.

The PML-N backbenches could not bear with arrogant-sounding Mehmud, who had joined the PTI fairly late after spending many months among the courtiers of Shahbaz Sharif.

When they tried to silence him with disruptive heckling, the PTI backbenches tried to out-shout them with slogans. They specifically targeted Maryam Nawaz and constantly called her a “Choor (thief).”

A group of around five legislators, elected on the PTI ticket from Karachi during the elections of 2018, always gang up to confront the opposition with fierce heckling.

Leaving the seats, allotted to them, they sit in a row on front benches and keep inventing lyrical slogans to project the Sharifs as an unrepentant family of “compulsive dacoits.”

Their strategy didn’t seem working Friday. It rather backfired when the PML-N backbenchers began responding with equally fierce sloganeering that targeted Prime Minister and his family.

Khawaja Asif once enjoyed the reputation of an ultimate heckler. But he failed to present an appropriate response to Mehmud due to nonstop sloganeering from both sides of the House.

The national assembly may not meet for many weeks now. The hiatus will surely deny the number-strong opposition a powerful platform for promoting its narrative.

Through the speech of Shafqat Mehmud, the PTI government has clearly conveyed for another time Friday that its “war on corruption” would continue with absolute vigor. “The looters and plunderers faking as politicians” must not expect any mercy.

The PTI government also does not require any “strategic input” or political support from the Sharifs and Zardaris of this world to deal with consequences of the abrogation of Article 370.

Most opposition legislators were thus justified to imagine that during the forthcoming hiatus, the accountability outfits would arrest more front ranking leaders of the PML-N and the PPP.

After the arrest of Maryam, Ahsan Iqbal and then Khawaja Asif are considered as “next in the line” from the PML-N.

Things don’t look comfortable for the PPP either. “After Eid,” Syed Khurshid Shah, a very experienced PPP parliamentarian from Sindh, seems set to be nabbed by NAB.

Rumors are also rife in Islamabad that “sufficient grounds” are now available with corruption-busting agencies for arresting Murad Ali Shah, the Chief Minister of Sindh.

The PPP will surely need to install a new chief minister after his arrest. Sources that I can trust insist that after the arrest of Murad Ali Shah, Asif Ali Zardari will not be able to put a chief minister of his liking. He might be “forced to accept a person”, nominated by “others.”

For sure, both the opposition parties are feeling as if being pushed to the wall. That has forced a fast growing number of second-tier leaders of these parties to seek a broad based alliance, comprising all the opposition parties, to check the expected blitz of more arrests.

The humiliating debacle, the combined opposition had recently suffered by attempting to vote out the Chairman Senate, Sadiq Sanjrani, in spite of savoring the clear numerical edge, had worked like a “downer,” however.

Besides dampening the hopes of the opposition parties to bounce back with vigor, secret balloting over the motion of no confidence against the Senate Chairman, also forced many PML-N wallahs to question the “real game” of the PPP.

A widely spread and mostly believed story had claimed that Asif Zardari was “managed” to rethink his support for removal of Sanjrani.

The hawkish pockets of the PML-N vote bank never trusted the former President. They are yet not willing to forget and forgive the role he had played for installing Sadiq Sanjrani to the office of Chairman Senate, too close to general elections of 2018.

Thanks to a long series of frequent meetings between the second tier leaders of the PML-N and the PPP, a complete and bitter split between the two parties has surely been averted.

Furiously reacting to the news of Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s arrest Thursday, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had also pleased many among the crowd she had been trying to mobilize through grassroots activism. That’s about it, though.

In spite of savoring the number-strong presence in both the houses of parliament, the PML-N and the PPP seemed to have lost ‘the script.’ Instead of generating some energy through developing a fresh narrative, most of their legislators are rather looking for survival kits to live through the times, when the wind is blowing hard and hot against them.