One cannot predict these days whether Premier Sharif is about to crack a joke of sort or adding a tactful interjection to a major policy statement in a smooth manner. Wednesday was one of these days. Just when many in the press gallery were naively sure about the launch of a full fledge military operation against Pakistani Taliban, Premier Sharif came up with his own style of surprising legislators, journalists and observers by telling everyone that he was getting late for reaching Tarbella (Dam). And he had definitely not cracked a joke. In fact, he was scheduled to fly to Tarbella for a ceremony related to its extension project.

Ask the top Sharif admirers these days, and they will tell you the wisdom behind such a mention in the middle of a short speech cum reply on the floor of the house. It killed two birds with one stone. Firstly, it offset the criticism cum appeal made by Opposition Leader in National Assembly Khurshid Shah in his unique style. In a nutshell, Shah wanted due importance, may be a few trips to the prime minister’s house for prolonged secret briefings, amidst camera glitter at the start and end of the briefings, naturally. And Sharif agreed within no time as soon as the opposition leader took his seat after naively reacting to yet another long speech of Interior Minister Ch Nisar which focused mainly on the new National Security Policy.

Nisar reiterated, less of political Sharif’s, but more of General Sharif’s doctrine, which calls for more than a befitting response through strike at the very commands and control nerve centres of TTP in response to every terrorist strike, anywhere in the country.

Like Nisar, likeminded Imran Khan is fast and intelligent enough coming to terms with the new ground realities. It was sort of a bitter pill for both, as the usual villains, the Americans, didn’t add fuel to fire through drone strikes (none happened by two months now) and the TTP went on a killing spree of Pakistani soldiers and police which effectively put on back foot staunch and leading proponents of talks, and subdued the rest.

Conspiracies theories apart, Nisar earned a pat on the back by the Premier on the floor of the house, this day. His hard work to come up with the National Security Policy was recognised. Some consolation for him, at last. Only last month he was smoothly sidelined from spot light of Taliban negotiations. The Sharif kitchen cabinet was not happy the way Nisar was portraying himself as the main brain of the current dispensation, the effective second in command of the premier, an unannounced deputy prime minister. So columnist Irfan Siddique was brought in as a Special adviser, in a role of a senior minister of sort, and Nisar was made mere coordinator of the two committees. This was not an elevation at all. With talks meeting a dead end, Nisar would be a relieved man as far as the sensitive yet thankless assignment is concerned.

Intriguingly, Opposition leader Khurshid Shah was all alone tucked on the front row of the National Assembly on this important day when some fireworks were expected on what many call “confused policy” of the Sharif led PML-N government on Pakistani Taliban. This was a day when the government was all set to receive salvos from the anti-Taliban PPP, and the pro talks Imran Khan. Luckily for PML-N, nothing of the sort happened.

Surprisingly, Khan chose to stay away on this important day. He had more pressing business up his sleeves. Far away in Jhang he was cherishing the support of Faisal Saleh Hyat for a by-election contest, almost one on one with ruling PML-N. A win would be a morale booster for his PTI in Punjab. But compared with the stakes involved on the TTP issue, the election canvassing should have been less important on agenda of a political leader who got the second highest number of popular votes in 2013 elections, and rules terrorism hit KPK. The other day, Khan wanted more clarity on the part of government regarding the ongoing surgical strikes and talks prospects.

Perhaps it was persuasion from the garrison or of late realisation, that he lately made a considerable change in his TTP talks advocacy, his compulsory critics labelled as U turn. Infact, this was not a complete U turn of sort as Khan aligned or adjusted his Taliban talks policy with that of the military establishment. For reasons, we may not fully agree with his compulsory critics. But, they have a point for now when they claim the massive surgical military strikes in North Waziristan and elsewhere, and prior condemnable actions of TTP in the middle of government-Taliban committee talks, have left Khan clueless, and short of sellable arguments.

Altaf Bhai’s comrades were also expected to add fuel to fire. Fresh from a pro military, anti Taliban, rally the jubilant MQM cadres were literally occupying the television talk shows and news bulletins for the last two three days. But no one spoke on the floor of the house. One could not locate Farooq Sattar Bhai.

The tactful Maulana Fazlur Rehman was also there on the front row of the treasury benches. But he kept mum after his ministers boycotted the federal cabinet meeting on Monday. Publicly, it was agitation of sort against the military strikes, but everyone knew they were irritated by the non-allocation of ministries even after taking oath last month. Maulana seems a relived man to the extent as his arch rival Maulana Samiul Haq’s peace overtures have come to an almost dead end. It boomerangs in the end.