For the past two weeks, almost each front-ranking PML-N leader has been preparing us for “in-house change,” while drumming the Minus-One theme. I am not a great admirer of the Imran Government. Yet my nose failed to smell “the change,” they had been expecting with utmost confidence.

As if to affirm my gut feeling, the PTI deliberately played a parliamentary trick Tuesday evening to show it to the world that its majority in the National Assembly remained intact.

The sitting was reserved for private initiatives in legislation. Maulana Akbar Chitrali of the Jamaat-e-Islami tried to take advantage of it by introducing a bill, seeking huge revamping of the NAB-connected laws. The government took the position that it already was actively reviewing those laws and “soon” the proposed changes would be put before the house. Chitrali should thus wait for the government’s bill.

He refused to budge. That forced the headcount and the government succeeded to scuttle his initiative with a huge margin. Only ten MNAs stood to support Chitrali, while the government showed 90 members standing for it.

The same government failed to sustain the winning streak, however. Alamgir Khan from its backbenches wanted to introduce another law that would ban the wearing of turbans by the staff, many pricey restaurants depute on their entrance to welcome customers.

Alamgir Khan had been an attention seeking “social activist” from Karachi. He kept furnishing engaging stories for 24/7 networks by pointing out the lack of covers for the manholes in his town by staging scenes reminding you of agit-pop tricks. After elected to the National Assembly on the PTI ticket in July 2018, he aspired for a ministerial slot. Prime Minister Imran Khan has yet to recognize his potential and he keeps creating scenes in the National Assembly to prove his worth.

Pressing for the turban-banning law, he kept stressing with contempt that the British colonialists compelled the lower staff at power-displaying places to wear turbans, which had been associated with blue-blooded elite of the Mughal India. The practice was introduced to mock the dignity-related customs of the natives. It was time to discard the colonial legacy.

Syed Navid Qamar of the PPP felt too upset with rhetorical praising of the “pedigreed-elite” to enforce a law that to him looked but “trivial.” He didn’t want the National Assembly to waste its precious time in frivolous legislation. Fawad Chaudhry stood from the ministerial benches to fully support him.

Alamgir Khan pressed for the headcount, however. And only 71 stood to support him, while 81 of the opposition members stood to defeat him. The voting on his insistence did expose some cracks within the ruling party and the coalition. They don’t look significant, though, if you consider the big picture.

The government continues to feel in absolute command and control and thus not too willing to appease the opposition. Khawaja Asif of the PML-N had announced in the house Monday evening that after allegedly “sponsoring” a picket outside a building in London, where Nawaz Sharif is staying these days, the PTI must not expect any cooperation from the opposition.

The government surely needs to develop some working understanding with the opposition to seek consensus for appointing the Chief Election Commissioner. That “Constitutional Office” stays “vacant” for around a week. Initially, the opposition had been sitting with government representatives to reach consensus on this issue. Rumors were rather rife that the PTI government had “almost managed” consensus for the appointment of Babar Yaqub Fateh Mohammad. He is currently serving as the Secretary Election Commission on an extended term.

The PML-N has now begun to oppose his appointment, almost vehemently. Too late in the day, some of its leaders have suddenly discovered that the said gentleman was the most powerful secretary of the Election Commission, when the elections of July 2018 were being held. The PML-N consistently questions the “fairness” of those elections and often claims that they were “manipulated” for “stealing” their mandate. By agreeing to Fateh Mohammad’s upward mobility as the Chief Election Commissioner, the PML-N would have demolished its own narrative.

Fazal Mecan, a recently retired Cabinet Secretary, is now emerging as a forceful contender. Prime Minister had suggested his name and not many in the opposition expressed serious reservations about him. We have to wait, however, to find out whether the opposition members attend the parliamentary committee meeting, fixed for Wednesday, to seek consensus on the appointment of new Election Commissioner.

In spite of willing to appease and accommodate the opposition regarding the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner, the PTI government is yet not willing to forget and forgive in a larger context. I have it from reliable sources that during the cabinet meeting Tuesday, the possibility of removing the name of Maryam Nawaz Sharif from the ECL was also discussed but firmly opposed in the end, almost unanimously.

The daughter and apparent political heir of Nawaz Sharif is already out on bail. Now, she had approached the Lahore High Court to seek one-time permission to leave for London and visit her ailing father. The Court had directed the government to convey its intent regarding the matter in around a week. It is but obvious by now that the PTI government would oppose her going abroad by furnishing firm legal grounds.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had, of late, been seriously suspecting that he was perhaps “misled” regarding the health status of Nawaz Sharif. He was made to believe that the former prime minister had entered the “critical state” and needed to be diagnosed and appropriately treated abroad on SOS basis. He said, “yes,” on “humanitarian grounds.” But many of his diehard supporters felt as if their leader had conceded the so-called “NRO” to Nawaz Sharif, who had been “sentenced for committing serious crimes of corruption and money laundering.”

Prime Minister and most of his cabinet members strongly feel that if Maryam Nawaz Sharif were also allowed to go abroad, on whatever grounds, the passionate base of the PTI would seriously suspect that some sort of a “deal” had indeed been struck with the Sharif family. It will demolish the corruption-hating reputation of the PTI for good as well.

It will be extremely difficult for the “pragmatic types” of the PML-N to extend working support to the PTI government, if Maryam Nawaz is not allowed to visit her father in London.

Far more important than the selection of the Chief Election Commissioner, through consensus, remains “the legislation” that the Supreme Court wants the parliament to pass in the next six months for setting the term of an important, rather awe-inspiring, office in this country. Both the PML-N and the PTI need to seriously negotiate the give-and-take to facilitate smooth delivery on this count.