Like most of my colleagues eagerly waiting for Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s speech on first budget of the Imran government, I had also imagined that he might have found all possible alternatives to the word, “selected,” by diligent searching before taking the floor Monday.

He might have tried to use all the possible synonymous for this word to entertain and engage the gallery and provoke the treasury benches. However, he slightly disappointed many of us on that count.

His 30-minute long speech Monday was rather drafted like a policy paper. He preferred sticking to its text to convey a somber message.

Instead of igniting squabbles with cheap shots and personal attacks, the well-drafted speech clearly reflected deliberate restraint and use of a tamed tone. It remained focused on building the thesis that Imran Khan is not a “true democrat”. The façade of an elected government under him was rather pushing Pakistan to turn into an authoritarian state.

Flowers of multiple shades and variety are not allowed to shine and bloom in our media scene. A “selective process” of accountability is throwing opposition politicians in jails and even members elected to a “sovereign house” were denied the space to fully exercise their right of free expression.

After denying oxygen to all channels of pluralism, the PPP Chairman went on, the Imran government had finally introduced a budget that merely attempted to fulfill all preconditions that the IMF had set before approving a bailout package for Pakistan. No wonder, he kept calling it the “PTI-IMF-budget.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari firmly believed that budgetary proposals were ruthlessly punitive to the poor, marginalized and the salaried sections. A definite group of business tycoons had certainly been pampered through some incentives, though.

But even the broad sections of already rich types are asked to pay more in an environment where the economy looks frighteningly sluggish.

With an authoritarian mindset, the state looks determined to extract an unmanageable-looking target of revenues through the brute use of coercive powers of the state.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was not too wrong to insist that the harsh tone for conveying the message that pay-to the-state or else be ready to go to jail and suffer severe penalties. As a result, the government had spread panic in the market.

He further reiterated that our economy remained primarily an undocumented economy since decades. Therefore, one needed hard sell and incentivized persuasion to allure an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis to a culture of digitalized documentation.

The unwise dandling of the stick will not work here. It may rather force people to hide their wealth in sheer fright. People with money will feel hesitant to invest in job-producing businesses. That will demolish all hopes of growth. Coupled with widespread unemployment and high inflation, the growth-deprived economy will surely provoke people to take to the streets. It may eventually lead Pakistan to absolute anarchy and chaos.

Without being too scratchy, he also questioned the formation of a National Debt Commission. Presumably the “public servants” are authorized to summon top decision makers of the previous two governments of the PPP and PML-N, since 2008 to 2018, to face questions related to validity, utility and spending of loans, acquired by duly elected governments from different countries and international donor agencies.

This commission, he strongly believed, would set the precedent where any government, constitutionally answerable only to an elected parliament, might feel crippled and overshadowed by unelected operatives of the state power. He also questioned the establishment of the National Development Council with the same logic.

The visibly restrained tone and tenor of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s speech sounded like a passionate persuasion to convince the government for an active rethinking of its political and economic policies. He surely sounded looking for a middle ground, where the government and the opposition could live and possibly cooperate with each other to affirm and consolidate the “parliamentary democracy” in Pakistan.

Murad Saeed, the communication minister, took the floor immediately after him. This youthful minister from Swat is the most vocal icon of the “corruption-hating” base of the PTI. The moment he stood up, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari left the house. The PTI backbenchers loudly called him a “coward” for “running away” like that.

Living up to his reputation of an unforgiving hawk, Murad Saeed delivered a lynching speech that primarily aimed to project Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his political heirs as self-serving opportunists, ever willing to strike deals with the local and the global establishment, only to grab power and use it to amass wealth for their persons and cronies by all means.

To prove the “greed-based opportunism” that ZAB and his political heirs presumably had in their blood, Saeed widely quoted from books that authors like Condoleezza Rice and Boob Woodward had written to explain handling of the state business by the Bush and the Obama governments of the USA.

The decisive role, Americans had played to push General Musharraf with an agreement with Ms. Benazir Bhutto had also been discussed there. Asif Ali Zardari’s interaction with US representatives as the President of Pakistan is also discussed in these books.

It is not the time to discuss Murad Saeed’s interpretation of the stated events and interactions. Far more important is the message that the youthful icon of the PTI’s “ideological base” conveyed through his speech.

Through the said speech, the PTI has loudly transmitted its either/or mindset. The PPP of Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is simply perceived as “evil” by this mindset. It is but a “gang of hardened criminals,” addicted to using political power to amass ill-gotten millions and launder them abroad. They don’t deserve forgiving and forgetting.

The deliberate-looking restraint that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had adopted to prepare the text of his speech certainly looks an exercise in futility in this context.

Yet, the PPP doesn’t appear to be yet ready to provoke the PTI government for a do or die showdown. No doubt, it sincerely wants to join a grand alliance of the opposition parties that Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI (F) has diligently been working for.

After much waiting, he has called for holding of a Multi-Party Conference on June 27. If you trust the media hype the proposed conference will set a cut-off date for staging the mass scale protest in Islamabad. The ultimate aim is to force the end of the Imran government. We don’t know what Maulana has in mind about “what next?”

The PPP, at least until Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took the floor Monday afternoon, seriously desired that the JUI (F) leader should postpone his MPC to June 30. It did not want to miss the possible moments during the discussion on cut motions, where the reality of the “majority” this government enjoys in the national assembly could be “exposed” by enforced head counts.

Due to increasingly building of the feel of a house-divided about it, the PML-N also looks unprepared for a head on confrontation with the government at this stage.

The so-called hawkish and the dovish camps of the PML-N unanimously believe that before sitting for the “resign or else” Dharna in Islamabad, its leaders should build “momentum” for it by holding massive rallies in all the major cities of Pakistan. In short, the PML-N surely wants the hot months of summer to pass before moving to mass scale protests in Islamabad.

Most PML-N leaders seriously believe that “window of opportunity” for a possible knocking down of the government may open for them between the months commencing from this October to March or April of next year. And they seem too willing to wait.

In the given context, even if Maulana agreed to hold his MPC on June 30 with a large heart, the event might end as a nonstarter.

Meantime, the Imran government has launched Pervez Khattak and Jehangir Khan Tareen to do whatever to appease Sardar Akhter Mengal of the Balochistan National Party. The PTI wants his party to vote for the passage of its first budget, come what may, and also stay away from the JUI (F) staged MPC.

The government may succeed to hit the target in the end.