First thing I noticed after taking my seat in the press gallery was the presence of Asad Umar in the National Assembly.

After his removal from the finance ministry, it was his first coming here. He looked content and all smiles while sitting in the same seat that was allotted to him as the Finance Minister; third on the left of the seat reserved for the prime minister on front benches.

This clearly indicated, at least to me, that parliamentary handlers of the PTI government strongly expect him to return to the federal cabinet after coping with the shock he must have endured for being removed from a high profile ministry in an unceremonious manner.

Fairly a big crowd of PTI backbenchers confirmed my hunch by leaving their seats to greet him with sincere looking warmth.

He surely seemed connected with diehard PTI loyalists and they don’t appear willing to abandon him, so soon and just like that.

After dispensing off the regular business by the Speaker, he pressed the button to take the floor on a point of personal explanation. Reporters felt excited for it was obvious that he was all set to respond to a blistering speech that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had delivered Monday evening to laugh at recent cabinet-reshuffle that also ditched Umar.

He had specifically targeted Asad Umar with biting taunts and repeated the allegation that the former finance minister always had a ‘soft heart’ for some leaders of “proscribed organisations.”

Yet the operative theme of the PPP Chairman was to drum the point that Asad Umar was removed for being “incompetent.” He failed to deliver and in “desperation” Prime Minister Imran Khan had to approach Dr Hafiz Sheikh.

Since years, Asad Umar and his party had been promoting the story that Pakistan’s economy was enduring financial crunch, essentially due to the economic management of the PPP government that worked from 2008 to 2013. “Loot and plunder” was described as the sole objective of that government.

Dr Hafiz Sheikh had remained the financial czar of that government for around three years. He relished enviable autonomy and often irritated Asif Ali Zardari for it.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had justifiably wondered as to why the change-driven PTI felt the need of seeking help from the same Sheikh to “correct and improve” things on economic front.

The journos expected an equally blistering reply from Asad Umar. He, however, disappointed most of us by being brief and focused.

He kept referring to PPP Chairman as “Bilawal Zardari,” while omitting Bhutto from it. But didn’t go beyond that to deride him.

His sole objective was to show that Pakistan’s economy was in real mess during the PPP government of 2008-13. The rate of growth never crossed 2.8 percent in those years; inflation touched the frightening height of 12.3 percent and overall budget deficit stayed at 8 percent.

After stating figures in a sedate tone, Asad Umar politely suggested that “Bilawal Zardari” must think twice before feeling proud of this ‘performance.’

Without naming Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, he then went on to build the theme that opposition stalwarts like him were targeting him, “not for the love of poor people.”

They (the PML-N and the PPP leaders), in fact, feel vulnerable to accountability for being “exposed.” Their “fake accounts” and “luxurious properties, purchased abroad through ill gotten money” are now being located. Joining hands with multiple kinds of “mafias,” these politicians thus want the PTI government to fail and go home without completing its term.

Yet, he asserted with absolute confidence that the PTI government was here to stay and in the end, “220 million people of Pakistan, a nuclear country, will defeat the plundering mafias and their promoters and supporters among politicians.”

After earning a thundering desk thumping from his colleagues from the PTI benches, he took back his seat and left the house after a while.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was not present in the house during his speech. By the time he reached there, Khurshid Shah of PPP was already speaking in his defence.

Shah Sahib delivered a lengthy speech. The context he projected did sound valid. Being an experienced politician he, however, forgot that politics is a cruel business and people tend to forget. Perceptions are far more important than reality and on that front Asad Umar won the day by mere focusing on icy cold data.

By referring to “mafias,” Asad Umar also dropped heavy hints to convey the message that he was removed due to their pressure.

Rumors are rife in Islamabad that prominent Dons of “Mafias,” Asad Umar referred to, have been landing in Islamabad to manage access to Hafiz Sheikh.

Intense lobbying is on to force the government for announcing a grand “amnesty scheme” before presenting the next budget. It’s not the “forget and forgive” only that is being demanded. Huge “incentives” are rather being extracted for those who had been hiding their wealth from tax collectors since decades. After miserably failing in meeting the revenue targets, set during the last fiscal year, the government surely seems yielding.

To savor the last laugh, Asad Umar may still keep quiet when the expected ‘amnesty’ will be announced. From a long-term perspective, though, he would rather wait for execution of the terms that IMF is bound to push before granting a “bailout package” to Pakistan.

For many weeks before his removal, Asad Umar had been consistently telling people he trusted that some terms, proposed by the IMF, could force Pakistan to “compromise on its sovereignty.” Issues related to Pakistan’s links with China also continue bleeping on IMF radars.

I seriously suspect that from heart of his hearts, Asad Umar is waiting for Dr Hafiz Sheikh to blink on these counts. If that happens, he might begin roaring like a “true patriot” to prove the point that he was not removed for “incompetence” but “sacrificed” to sate the greed of “mafias” and due to the pressure mounted by global players, not feeling good about Pakistan’s “sovereign” choices and decisions.

Asad Umar is certainly setting himself to play a long innings and simply waiting for the right time to tell his side of the story.

Little wonder, parliamentary handlers of the PTI government have yet not allotted a seat to him on backbenches of the treasury and his well-wishers from within the party anxiously wait for his return to the cabinet.