Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari scored a victory point Thursday. By invoking the right of speaking on a point of order, he took the floor to deliver a brief but hard-hitting speech. It attempted to portray Prime Minister Imran Khan failing to walk the talk and habitually succumbing to pressure.

During his speech, Murad Saeed, ‘the fighter minister,’ rushed into the house. He obviously was eager to launch the counter attack. Bhutto-Zardari ‘welcomed’ his entry with biting taunt, but forced the chair to ask for a headcount to judge whether the house had quorum. Numbers present on treasury benches were not enough to furnish the same. The proceedings had to be adjourned.

Some ministers and many PTI backbenchers felt annoyed with “childish prank of Baby Bhutto.” During an hour-long recess, however, they failed to collect numbers required to resume the sitting. Bhutto-Zardari laughingly got away with damaging point scoring and Murad Saeed felt frustrated for missing the opportunity of getting even.

The operative point of Bhutto-Zardari was the recent induction of a law that the Imran government had hastily managed through an ordinance, issued from the President’s office. The obvious objective of this law was to ‘facilitate’ Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav.  This zealous officer of the India’s intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), had been arrested while operating from Mashkel of our Balochistan in March 2016.

While in custody, he had confessed to have personally supervised a series of terrorism-connected incidents in Balochistan and Sindh. That led to his trial in a military court, which announced the death sentence for him on April 10, 2017.

Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister of Pakistan when Jadhav was nabbed red-handed. The then opposition accused him of not feeling visibly excited about the sensationalarrest of a high grade Indian spy, that too from the soil of Pakistan. The confessions he had made certainly provided substantive material to Pakistan’s narrative that India had actively been sponsoring the acts of terrorism in Sindh and Balochistan.

Nawaz Sharif and his government, the then opposition alleged, did not show sufficient interest and diplomatic will to project the Jadhav story before the global community. The former prime minister was also accused of being ‘soft’ on India. His opponents rather began describing him as “MODI KAA YARR (the friend of Modi, the Indian prime minister).” Imran Khan and his party viciously led promotion of the said perception.

Doing so, it disregarded the fact that spy stories have but short-lived utility. Even during the hyper days of the cold war, the warring countries eventually used the spies in their custody as instruments of leverage. They were eventually swapped, discreetly, to extract concessions on diplomatic issues.

India had gone to International Court of Justice (ICJ) to manage some relief for its spy. It got the Consular access but refused to help Jadhav in filing an appeal in Pakistan’s High Court against the death sentence announced for him. He doesn’t seem motivated to go for it himself and keeps requesting that Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff should give “sympathetic consideration” to his mercy petition.

 

Pakistan wants Jadhav to go through the process of seeking relief through its courts. To facilitate the same, a legal instrument entitled “The International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration)” had been issued as an Ordinance. But the same was issued in a hush-hush manner. Bhutto-Zardari was the first high profile politician who took the timely notice of it. Thursday, he forcefully talked about the same in the national assembly with spirited focus.

 

Khawaja Asif delivered the firm backup support from the PML-N benches. It surely was a comeuppance moment for the loyalists of Nawaz Sharif to settle old scores on Jadhav-connected story, by tauntingly wondering about “who” was behaving accommodative to India this time around.

 

The PPP Chairman moved a step forward, though, by insisting that Imran Khan had not been trying to manage ‘relief’ for Jadhav only. He rather accused the prime minister for being “friends to the terrorists.” And to drum the said point, he furiously recalled Ehsan Ullah Ehsan, a loud mouth spokesperson of the outfits audaciously announcing ownership for a score of heinous incidents of large-scale terrorism.

 

Ehsan had eventually surrendered himself to our authorities, but after many months of captivity, mysterious managed ‘the escape’. From a Twitter account, ostensibly run by him, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had recently been reminded of what had happened to his mother; her murder in Rawalpindi by the terrorists in the late 2008. The PPP Chairman kept wrathfully insisting that the threatening tweet wanted him to turn quiet and stop taking on the person of Prime Minister Imran Khan with critical and taunting statements.

 

The caustic allegations made by Bhutto-Zardari certainly called for an appropriate response. But the government looked completely unprepared and almost baffled. The PPP Chairman got away with a powerful surprise attack.The government surely needs to counter it during the Friday sitting.

 

Of late, the aggressive types from PTI have gradually begun to act complacent during parliamentary proceedings. They mostly anticipated lethal attacks from the PML-N benches. But in spite of having 85-members, the main opposition party seems to have lost ‘the punch.’ Shahbaz Sharif, the PML-N President, continues to sequester himself at his home in Lahore.

 

In his absence, the PML-N members of the national assembly hardly have any ‘script’ to follow, vigorously. Some of its top stars had also spent many months in jails, after being nabbed by NAB for allegedly committing serious crimes of corruption. After being out on bails, however, almost each of them seems reluctant to push the government to a tight corner by raising tough questions in the national assembly.

 

After having lengthy but off-the-record meetings with some of them, I feel forced to state that from the heart of their hearts the PML-N leaders are quietly waiting for ‘better times.’ They strongly believe that the Imran government is fast proving its limits, when it comes to significant issues of governance. Expecting doom and gloom on the economic front, most of them also appear as if hoping for the time when ultimate setters of the power scene in Pakistan would re-discover the ‘business-friendly’ skills of the PML-N.

 

The wishful waiting for ‘better times’steadily created a huge vacuum on our political spectrum. Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has vigorously begun to fill it. Murad Saeed is not enough for scuttling his flight. Karachi-based crowd of the PTI MNAs also failed to tackle him with rude and aggressive speeches and heckling in the national assembly. The government certainly needs a new playbook to manage him.

 

Some ardent observers of our power scene seriously believe that perhaps ‘the investigative skills’ of Shezad Akbar Mirza would now be mobilized to check the rise and rise of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on political horizon. He had been monitoring the accountability as a Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, but on Wednesday was moved upward as ‘advisor’, empowered to lead the ministry of interior with the authority of a federal minister. We have to wait and watch how he moves on this front.