Prime Minister Imran Khan has surprised many by reaching the national assembly for delivering a 67-minute-long speech Thursday. For the past two days, however, the experienced observers of our power scene certainly expected him to speak out loud.

Due to numerous reasons, a feeling has gradually been developing of late that things have begun slipping from under the control of Imran Khan. A formidable group of our usual “electables,” currently sitting in the national assembly on ruling party benches, began expressing their grievances after taking the floor during general discussion on budgetary proposals. A few of them also appeared on TV talk shows to embarrass the government with candid conversations.

Then came an “explosive” interview, which an OTT-addicted minister, Fawad Chaudhry, granted to a senior journalist. After being aired on VOA, it went viral on social media. The said interview firmly projected the message that Imran Khan was leading a “team” that “worked” like a viciously divided house. Prime Minister was also attributed to have “forewarned” his cabinet that if things went on the manner prevailing these days, “our political scene is set to change in the next six months.”

To scuttle the feeling of doom and gloom, the prime minister surely required opening up his heart. And he did it for sure by delivering a comprehensive speech in the national assembly Thursday. Through the same, he must have reassured his political base that things remained under his absolute command and control. With dedicated zeal he continues to move forward towards achieving the agenda, set as per his vision.

Imran Khan has developed the reputation of a rage-inciting orator, vigorously taking on his political opponents with ‘in your face’posturing. This put him in the league of “populist” leaders, often accused of stoking and deepening divisions. He certainly sounded different Thursday. Only at the tale end of his speech, he reiterated his commitment to the process of accountability. But doing so, he kept insisting that opposition was wrong for calling him “vindictive” in this context.

With pleading passion, he rather attempted hard to make his audience realize that without holding its elite accountable, no country in the world could establish an equitable system. Democracy should rather be considered synonymous to “meritocracy.”

The charged and energetic reiteration of his narrative didn’t appear suffice to promote the story of smooth sailing in the days to come. Prime Minister Imran Khan was almost explicit to admit that the real impact of COVID-19 still needs time to reveal itself in concrete terms. He sounded equally worried about the expected attack of locusts on our land.

With a deeply worried tone, he informed the house that after a long gap of 25 years, massive swarms of the locust have begun traveling to Pakistan from the Horn of Africa. The actual strength of this attack could yet not be gauged. We can but only pray to God that locusts don’t bring a huge disaster to Pakistan.

Sounding deeply overwhelmed with aggregate impact of COVID-19 plus the expected attack of locusts, the Prime Minister also seemed totally convinced while claiming that India was adamant to up its “destabilizing game” vis-à-vis Pakistan. He firmly repeated his opinion that Narendra Modi was a Nazi-inspired Hindu Supremacist. Prime Minister claimed to have tried hard to show “real Modi” to the world. Thanks to his pleading, prestigious publications like the New York Times were now watching India and reporting about it from an entirely different angle.

Modi, he said, had completely lost 80 million Kashmiris after taking abrasive steps on August 5, 2019. Things in Indian Occupied Kashmir have reached a “point of no return.” A mass scale movement, challenging the Indian stranglehold is bound to explode there, once the COVID-19 will somehow abate. To prevent the “inevitable,” Modi was desperate to engage Pakistan in both overt and covert battles.

The PTI MNAs felt delighted and moved with his speech. They kept punctuating it with enthusiastic desk thumping. For a change, the opposition also preferred to “behave.” No serious attempt was made to interrupt his flow or the stream of thought.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Khawaja Asif forced the speaker to let them respond to Prime Minister’s speech. To PPP Chairman it had sounded like a ‘swan song.’ He also insisted that Imran Khan felt compelled to speak in the house, “not for addressing our concerns.” He rather seemed reading a performance sheet to his “selectors.” Khawaja Asif remained equally taunting while dissecting the prime minister’s speech with a very sharp tongue.

The polarization in the house seems to be turning dangerously vicious, even before the Prime Minister took the floor and the response both Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Khawaja Asif had furnished to it.

By delivering a 23-minute-long speech Wednesday, Murad Saeed had provoked many to respond with their own sides of stories, he had narrated while speaking on a “point of personal explanation.”

Standing akimbo, Murad Saeed had named Dr. Abadullah, a PML-N MNA, and accused him of dying to establish contact with him to manage “relief” for some cases, filed against him and his brother, Amir Muqam, a powerful and weighty politician of the PML-N from KPK.

Abadullah agitated for long to tell his side of the story. The chair tried to ignore him. Without being given the mic, he kept shouting while standing before his bench. Doing so, he passed certain remarks, dubbed “unethical” by the Speaker. The same remarks also provoked Attaullah, a perpetually angry PTI MNA. Both of them kept hurling unprintable words at each other. Things started building for an ugly scene of physical scuffles.

To prevent the same, Asad Qaisar, extracted “apology” from Abadullah before giving the floor to him. The PML-N MNA categorically denied that he or any member of his family ever tried to establish contact with Murad Saeed to seek relief. He rather preferred to get a clean chit regarding his business with the ministry of communication by approaching Peshawar High Court.

After Abadullah, Qadir Patel of the PPP also managed getting the floor to speak on a “point of personal explanation” a la Murad Saeed. Patel surprised many by adopting a pleading tone. Instead of taking on the person of Saeed with the use of score-settling language, loaded with lethal innuendos, the PPP MNA from Lyari of Karachi, acted too humble to build the case that Murad Saeed had been consistently “asking for it,” by frequently taking on the person of PPP Chairman “with contemptuous tone and rude language.”

The PTI hawks like Murad Saeed should have discovered by now that as a nation we remain hostage to“honor culture.” In spite of losing its sheen for the rest of Pakistan, the PPP was keeping its vote bank in Sindh intact by sticking to the memories, associated with “Shaheed Rani (the martyred queen)”, i.e. Benazir Bhutto. After getting elected on the PPP ticket, its MNAs would find it extremely difficult to face their constituents, if perceived as if keeping quiet “like cowards,” when their leaders were attacked with “rude language” from the floor of the national assembly. Lest you forget, “sentiment” remains a make or break factor in vote-seeking politics.

Watching the national assembly proceedings while staying in their homes, most Pakistanis might not have realized that the Imran government suffered a huge embarrassment in the national assembly Thursday. Disregarding compulsions, clearly defined in Article 88 of our Constitution, the Finance Ministry Baboos had arbitrarily “cut” the allocations, National Assembly and the Senate had set for themselves for the next financial year. Both these “sovereign offices” savor complete autonomy in this matter.

Despite being an old, experienced and diehard loyalist of the PTI, Asad Qaisar furiously reacted to arbitrary doings of the Finance Ministry, currently being run by an IMF-gifted technocrat, Dr. Hafeez Sheikh, holding deep contempt for elected forums and institutions.