Nawaz Sharif was coy when reporters in London asked him about the plans for the All Parties Conference. Sharif briefly responded that the queries would be answered on the day of the opposition huddle. He was holding the cards close to his chest but it was also obvious that he was relishing the upcoming occasion.

The Sunday speech was a litany of his old charge-sheet. It was a reiteration of “I will not take dictation” and subsequent face-offs.

This time Sharif complained about not having power despite having power three times. He spoke about machinations. Even within the lines he was shooting barbs.

The speech stunned everyone—even his own party members. It left many party stalwarts nervous about the future. It emboldened the hardliners within the party. Maryam was all aglow. The speech was a reflection of her public pronouncements, mirroring her preferred style of politics. The confrontational tone of the speech seems to be paving way for her alignment in politics.

But a speech, no matter how bold or divisive, is after all just words. Political rhetoric needs to be followed by political action.

The real pressure is now on Sharif and opposition politicians. Sharif has taken an aggressive, extreme position. Will others follow his line? If they don’t, they lose credibility. If they step up, they are taking a position on a defenceless hill, while Sharif will simply watch the spectacle from his comfortable apartment in London, unscathed and relatively safe. In the coming weeks and months, the opposition parties have a dual challenge: to stay united and, eventually, to bring out numbers in the streets in December and January. This is not an easy task.

It could well be that Sharif’s tough posturing is to create just enough political pressure that allows Maryam to leave for London also. Sharif’s newly set up account on Twitter resonates with Maryam’s account. Perhaps this is the only reason why Sharif has doubled down on his explosive political rhetoric, breaking a long silence. Time will reveal this. After all, Sharif has cut deals in the past.

For Shehbaz Sharif the implications can be grave. The speech has dented his narrative and efforts of two years to mend fences and effect a rapprochement. His son already languishing in jail, are Shehbaz Sharif and some other frontline PML-N leaders ready to pay an even heavier price for Nawaz’s London speech?

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the host of the opposition huddle, has many years before he becomes a formidable politician, free from the shadows of elder Zardari. But he is gaining invaluable political experience and with time, can emerge as a key political player. In the current scenario, the Pakistan Peoples Party will be loathe to go all out. It will continue to play both sides.

Maulana Fazalur Rehman, who has the most potent street power, remained in a sulky mood during the opposition moot. His insistence on immediate resignations is not gaining traction with others. Perhaps the biggest hint about what’s to come. Not much?

But surely, there will be heightened political activity, culminating in the March Senate elections.

Prime Minister Imran Khan made a shrewd political move by allowing the speech to be broadcast live. It punctured the criticism of controlling media. But most significantly, the move removed Imran from the direct line of fire. Sharif fired salvos that his opponents gleefully portrayed as pushing him further down a dead-end street.

On Monday, new details emerged of a dinner for parliamentary leaders hosted by the top military brass. The military leaders stressed that politicians should themselves settle their political differences and not drag the institutions into the muddy waters. Subsequently, questions were raised about the role of politicians who say one thing in public and another in private.

On the face of it, Sunday’s development has solidified Prime Minister Imran Khan’s political position. Imran Khan has made the calculations. His position is central to the current political calculus. No wonder he chose to spend the weekend in the picturesque Nathiagali. Undisturbed by the commotion of the capital.