In spite of losing three full days to absolute bedlam that the ruling party itself triggered and sustained with vicious intent of “teaching some lessons to Opposition”, the National Assembly did succeed to allot unusually long hours for general discussion on budgetary proposals.

Hammad Azhar, the revenue minister, should have delivered the winding up speech at his earliest Tuesday to facilitate reaching the stage of dispensing with “cut motions.” The opposition vigorously pursues these motions to discuss performance of some important ministries.

The house was scheduled to commence its business at 2 pm, anyway. Before it, Prime Minister Imran Khan presided a long meeting of the ruling party and its allies to ensure that each member of the treasury benches keeps staying put in the house, until the end of the budget session.

The government must not face any embarrassment, if head counts were enforced during discussions on cut motions or in final moments of clause-by-clause approval of budgetary proposals.

I never thought that the number-strong opposition had any potential to block passage of the first budget of Imran Government. Even if jointly focused on the idea of voting out the said budget, the PML-N and PPP didn’t have numbers to achieve the target. They can surely take JUI of Maulana Fazlur Rehman for granted. And dilly-dallying Akhter Mengal could have turned against the government as well.

The decisive numbers for voting out the budget were yet split among three different groups: the MQM, PML-Q of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat and Zardari-hating MNAs from rural Sindh, currently assembled in GDA.

For their own reasons, they are still not willing to ditch Imran Khan at this stage. The MQM and the GDA are rather willing to walk extra miles to strengthen his government with the long term plan of demolishing the PPP-led government in Sindh, with proverbial “thousand cuts.”

I went to parliament house Tuesday, with the exclusive purpose of listening to winding up speech by the minister of revenue. Through the same, the government could convey the message that exhaustive speeches during the general discussion had forced a sympathetic rethink of budgetary proposals.

To meet the deadline for this column, I could not afford staying put in the press gallery after 7 pm, however. After separately talking to some ruling party members, enjoying active access to influence peddlers of these days, I did realize that the government had no desire to soften its first budget by announcing big scale concessions.

It is determined to look “tough” to convince the IMF that Imran Government surely has the will and the spine to fulfill preconditions it had set to approve a bailout package for Pakistan.

Institutions responsible for national security are also convinced that to put Pakistan’s economy on the road to recovery, the IMF-prescribed medicine needs to be gulped. No other options were available at this stage. I expected no assuaging rethink from the winding speech, therefore.

“Also ran type” speeches went on nonstop for another day. It seemed that each member sitting in this house wanted to deliver a speech on budgetary proposals to ensure the respective constituents that he or she did “speak for them” in the National Assembly.

Due to desultory speeches, neither the government nor any of the opposition parties could discuss the budgetary proposals in a broader context.

Pakistan’s strategic location and compulsions have certainly added to our economy-related difficulties. India remains hostile; Afghan scene is yet not settled and possibilities of a deadly showdown between Iran and its enemies are also building with ominous tempo.

The US is surely building pressure on Pakistan by actively using its influence on the IMF and the FATF. Not one high profile leader, from any side of the house, cared to exhaustively discuss external pressures to our economic scene. All of them stayed deliberately “local” and preferred to ignore the big picture.

Talking of “big picture,” I can now state without any fear of contradiction that some well-placed persons from Washington, who visited Islamabad in late May and early June, did come with a tempting offer.

Heavy hints were dropped to suggest that President Trump would love to have a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, sometime in third week of June. Pakistan’s Prime Minister politely declined by referring to his “tight schedule” and suggested July for a meeting with US President.

Most experts, frequently commenting on Pak-US relations, strongly believe that Prime Minister Imran Khan should have agreed to meet President Trump during the suggested time frame. It might have helped to soften FATF, which recently held its plenary meeting in Orlando.

The “softened stance” of FATF could also have helped Pakistan to manage a quick approval of the bailout package by the IMF.

The experts, I talked to, now feel that instead of July, Prime Minister Imran Khan has to wait until September for a meeting with President Trump.

Besides a possibly brief meeting on sidelines of the UN General Assembly, he may also fly to Washington for a one-on-meeting with US President.

Since 2008, I am retired from active reporting. For being completely disconnected from the beat of covering Pakistan’s relations with foreign countries, I am in no position to commit whether the Prime Minister missed a “good opportunity.”

Suffice is to imagine that he must have had solid reasons for not accepting the offer of having a meeting with Trump in third week of June.

Returning to local scene, one has to report that Maulana Fazlur Rehman firmly refused to postpone the date he had set for a Multi-Party Conference. The PPP wanted him to wait until June 30, so the combined opposition could create enough problems and embarrassment for the government during the stages of cut motions and clause-by-clause approval of the budgetary proposals.

The JUI-F is sticking to the schedule set for Wednesday. The PML-N is too willing to join the said conference with a high profile delegation that includes Ms Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

Until my writing this column, the PPP was still not sure whether Bilawal Bhutto Zardari should forget the National Assembly sitting of Wednesday and spend most of his time at the MPC. The party has not finalized its delegates to the said conference either.

Most reporters feel too excited about the said conference, though. I still doubt if the same would announce the date for staging a now or never ‘Dharna’ in Islamabad to shake the Imran government.

Far more ominous to me sounded the brief speech that Khawaja Saad Rafique delivered Tuesday after being brought to the assembly sitting from jail. He looked comfortably reconciled with the possibility of spending many more months in jail.

Before finishing his speech, however, he forewarned the treasury benches with cool and total confidence that “many of you will also find yourself in jail by this time next year.”

For him, NAB had turned GESTAPO of these days. “Its main task” is not to investigate and prosecute “the corrupt politicians, but to ensure complete demolition” of what we know as “parliamentary democracy” in Pakistan.

I can only wish he proved wrong in the end.