ISLAMABAD  - SALMAN MASOOD - MQM has thrown such tantrums umpteen times before. PPP has ridiculed and taunted its opposition even more. But the television hysteria and breathless reporting surrounding it belies the fact that, much like in the past, the current trading of barbs between both political parties is just shadow-boxing. They will reconcile for the ‘greater good of democracy.’ They will work together for the ‘politics of reconciliation.’

This tableau has been repeated so many times that it has lost all colour and flavour. The protest sit-in in Islamabad had also lost its bite and sting, forcing the main protagonists - Imran Khan and Tahir-ul Qadri - to recalibrate and adjust their strategies. The result is the current flurry of political rallies across the country. And, it is working. Suddenly, there is a feel that the country is in the midst of election season. There is expectation in the air. There is hope amongst the powerless, both in the political elite and disgruntled masses, that they will regain power.

Such is the force of this sense of expectation that even redundant, dead political entities like PML-Q have also announced to hold political rallies. It all will make for interesting politics in the coming months. The mobilisation of political workers and the ever-so hysterical news media, which thrives in blowing things out of proportion, will paint an ominous picture of a ruling government on the back foot and its opposition on the offensive. PML-N has sensed it. And, despite its characteristic aloofness - and some would say haughtiness - the ruling party leaders are also trying to forestall the impending opposition push.

Prime Minister Sharif has suddenly found time to meet his party’s lawmakers at the PM House. The current session of the national assembly got the privilege of the premier’s attendance on the very first day although the PM did not attend the proceedings of the House, instead choosing to meet political leaders and allies in his chamber. PML-N is also planning an expansion in the cabinet, and more importantly, a reshuffling. There is speculation that those very closely tied with the Sharifs would be brought to the backstage and limelight would be given to those who were in the shadows till now.

While the opposition has been gearing up to arrange more and more rallies to rob the ruling party of any semblance of legitimacy and popular mandate, PM Sharif and CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif have been visiting key Punjab districts, holding small public gatherings. Both brothers have also chaired several meetings to review and speed up the ongoing infrastructure projects. They are hoping that this process of giving PML-N a makeover and the sense of urgency in completing development projects, which showcase PML-N’s strength over its detractors, would halt the momentum of the opposition. It is a race against time.

Meanwhile, troubles are brewing on almost all borders. Indians have been exchanging mortar and gunfire along the Kashmir frontier for weeks. Afghans have also followed suit. But the biggest worry for the political and military establishment has been the flaring of tensions on the Iranian border. In an unprecedented move, the Iranians have killed one security official and wounded several in two border violations in Balochistan last week. Prime Minister Sharif has to snuff out the political fire domestically and repel the aggression on the international borders by leading a diplomatic offensive. For the man in the hot seat, there will be no respite in the coming weeks and months.