It’s a rare moment, especially in Pakistan, when the whole nation stands united behind a single purpose, and more importantly behind a single leader. For a brief moment, when he stood on the floor of the Parliament and addressed the world on the escalating tensions with India, Imran Khan had the country’s rapt attention and unquestioned approval. At such a crucial juncture he came of age as a national leader.

Yet that shining moment, one that should’ve served as the bedrock of future domestic politics for the government, is fast diminishing under the callous behavior of the government’s ministers, and to a certain extent, Imran Khan himself. It did not take long for the bickering that passes for debate in the National Assembly to return, and as usual, the mudslinging spilled out onto the airwaves as well.

This is not to say that the government shares the blame alone. The opposition returned to its preferred method of opposition – rowdy sloganeering and token walkouts in the assembly – as soon as the mini-budget was introduced. However, the way the government ministers have responded to this – as well as new developments such as Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s meeting with the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – has been completely unwarranted and out of proportion. Personal, ad hominm attacks soured the mood fast – the unity of the last few weeks seems a distant memory now.

It has been said before, and it needs to be said again, that the government needs to step out of opposition mode; attacks on opponents integrity and criticism of their policies were perfectly fine when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf was in the opposition and was gearing up for pitched campaigning against the incumbent government. Yet they are completely out of place when the party is in government and responsible for making policies. Flogging the opposition does nothing anymore – you already have the power and have the initiative, focus on using it. It is a waste of the government’s time to attack the opposition at all times; what is more, the increased animosity makes it that much more difficult for the government to get its own agenda through the legislature.

Imran Khan will rue the lost political capital, and if he plans to not lose any that remains he must rein his ministers in. PTI takes cues from their captain – and as long as he continues in his dharna demeanor, that will be impossible to do.