ISLAMABAD - Khawaja Asif is one of the most experienced politicians sitting in the current national assembly. He also is too familiar with games that make or break the governments in this country through elite-driven intrigues. To my utter surprise, however, he is yet not able to fathom the PTI government’s strategy that keeps pushing the opposition to defensive corners by nonstop drumming of corruption-related stories.

After the question hour, Khawaja Asif got the floor and virtually walked into a trap by delivering a seemingly crafty speech. It was aimed to extract apologies from the PTI government and force it to commit some flexibility for accommodating the opposition, in the name of establishing “working relations” with it.

A crowd of less than a hundred UK-based Pakistanis had assembled outside a building of London on Sunday, where Nawaz Sharif is staying with his sons these days. Some of them attempted to break in as well. But most preferred to shout rude slogans against the former prime minister and his family.

Without naming names and revealing details, Asif was clearly suggesting as if the PTI was solely responsible for the assault-looking picket outside the building in London. Often, he also sounded threatening by reminding that both within and outside Pakistan, the PML-N workers could also be provoked to besiege the residences of PTI leaders, if rowdy pickets to embarrass the Sharif family in London were not stopped.

After almost threatening, he also revealed that senior PTI representatives had often been approaching the opposition leaders of late. They want to create conditions that facilitate smooth legislation in parliament and help this institution to move on in a dignified manner.

“The crowd in London,” he claimed, “had conveyed an entirely different message, though.” It had rather forced the opposition to suspect the understanding-seeking efforts of the government. Calling them “an exercise in futility,” Khawaja Asif was almost categorical in conveying the message that the opposition might not continue with consensus-seeking meetings regarding the appointment of a new Election Commissioner.

Similarly, the opposition might not be too willing to negotiate with the government, when it would seek its cooperation regarding “the legislation,” the Supreme Court had demanded for setting the terms of an important office.

For many in the press gallery, Asif’s remarks regarding the expected “legislation” made the “breaking news.” I didn’t feel so thrilled, though.

The government justified my indifference by launching Murad Saeed for responding to Asif’s speech. The youthful communication minister is considered an unforgiving hawk. Prime Minister Imran Khan proudly admires his passion and keeps projecting him as a role model to his devoted followers.

At the outset, Saeed “condemned” the London incident and categorically stated that the PTI had nothing to do with it. Yet, there are questions, he insisted, which keep surfacing due to “revelation of so many stories”, projecting whole of the Sharif family as “hardened criminals indulging in ruthless corruption and laundering the ill-gotten wealth through a dark network of fake accounts and money transfers.”

Shezad Akbar, the James Bond-type aide of the prime minister, had recently spun a huge story of mega corruption that projects Shehbaz Sharif like a mafia don, instead of a dedicated politician. Saeed repeated the said story with sadistic relish. Doing this, he also justified, to a great extent, the staging of a picket outside the house, both Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother are staying at London these days.

“Overseas Pakistani,” the minister recalled, “work overtime to survive in harsh conditions.” The corruption of Pakistani politicians burns their hearts and they feel compelled to express the accumulated rage. The PTI must not be held responsible for their rage.

Murad was also very harsh and blunt while repeatedly taunting Khawaja Asif, who had been accused of receiving “1.5 million Pak rupees a month from a UAE-based company,” even when serving as the defence and the foreign minister in the last PML-N government.

The Supreme Court had refused to disqualify Asif on grounds, projected in the said story. Yet, the PTI government is not willing to forget and forgive. Rumours are rather rife in Islamabad that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) keeps getting instructions from the Prime Ministerial Secretariat to find means of punishing Khawaja Asif. NAB had already initiated a different enquiry to locate the “real sources” of the wealth of his family.

The manner, Murad Saeed took on Shehbaz Sharif and Khawaja Asif clearly conveyed the message that the PTI government is in no mood to forget and forgive. It will relentlessly continue with its “war on corruption.” And the opposition is wrong to presume that it would switch to appeasing its opponents to get an “important legislation,” passed smoothly from parliament. “My way or the highway” remains the ruling mindset.

The government is perhaps not so wrong to take the opposition for granted. I have it from credible sources that most representatives of the PML-N are “almost ready” to approve the appointment of Babar Yaqub Fateh Mohammad as the new Election Commissioner. Currently, he is serving the Election Commission as its secretary and is soon set to complete the term that he got extended after his date of retirement.

The Prime Minister had suggested his name. Now, the opposition, especially the PML-N, wants you and I to believe that the elections held in July 2018 were not “fair and transparent.” The so-called “mandate” was rather managed, if not “stolen,” through the said election. Babar Yaqub Fateh Mohammad had been a powerful secretary of the Commission that held those elections. His “upward mobility” to the Chief Election Commissioner’s office, with approval of the PML-N, would seriously damage this party’s narrative regarding the July 2018 election.

The government is almost convinced that the opposition would certainly behave obsequiously friendly, when “the legislation” demanded by the Supreme Court would be formally put in parliament for approval.

The PTI government does not seem rushing to the expected legislation, anyway. Powerful ministers have been telling their friends in whispers that their government might prefer to beg for a review, once the Supreme Court judgment is finally announced with specific details.

Legal Eagles of the government are confident that the government does not need to set the terms of an important office through a constitutional amendment, requiring 2/3rd majority in both the houses of parliament. An act of Parliament, they believe, would be enough to deliver the needful.

They do not need the opposition to get a law passed in the national assembly. Problems in this regard can only surface in the Senate. The opposition has no desire to mount any resistance on a “sensitive issue,” however, if you trust the government’s evaluation of its opponents in parliament.