As a first-timer to the National Assembly from a seat of Lahore since July 2018, Hammad Azhar steadily succeeded to project himself as a politician with tremendous potential.

Participating in rage-inciting TV talk shows, he sounded polite for data-driven articulation and presenting his position without being rude.

However, this almost three-week long budget session of the National Assembly has introduced us to an entirely different person.

With admirable courage and confidence, Hammad Azhar delivered a lengthy speech to introduce the first budget of Imran government. Not for a second he ever fumbled or looked overwhelmed by incessant heckling that the number strong opposition sustained throughout his speech.

Doubly praiseworthy was the fact that he braved the unprecedented mayhem for reading policy proposals that he had no role in devising.

An IMF-friendly technocrat, Dr Hafeez Shaikh, was the one and only author of the budgetary proposals. And he  had devised them only to appease and please the ultimate regulators of the global economy.

Defending the same proposals during various stages of the budget passing process, Hammad Azhar gradually turned into a person possessed with unmanageable fury.

Often, he directed his ire to the person of Shehbaz Sharif, the opposition leader, by calling him a “thief” and accusing his sons of reckless money laundering.

Viciously taking on Shehbaz Sharif, the political heir of Mian Azhar surely surprised many of us.

Once upon a time, the House of Sharifs and elders of Hammad Azhar were taken almost like a family. The late father of Shehbaz Sharif had played a key role in launching the political career of Hammad Azhar’s father. At times, he also reprimanded his sons for not being “accommodating” towards him.

However, around April 1993, Nawaz Sharif began seriously suspecting that Mian Azhar had discreetly started to cultivate potential patrons from among the non-elected pillars of the state. And he eventually proved right in 1999.

Soon after taking over in October of that year, General Musharraf felt the need of cultivating a new version of Pakistan Muslim League to furnish political support for him. Mian Azhar was selected to head the invented outfit.

But he eventually lost the command and control of it for not reaching the National Assembly from a seat of Lahore through the elections held in 2002. Chaudhrys of Gujrat surfaced like the new favourites, pushing Mian Azhar to long years of hibernation.

Under the wings of Imran Khan, Hammad Azhar is now trying to recover the political space that his father had lost to the Sharifs.

With the zeal of a new convert, he has begun to act aggressively rude and provocative to project himself as an energetic answer to the Sharifs, who continue to dominate the political scene of Lahore and most cities of Central Punjab, in spite of being down and out since August 2018.

Before entering the tedious stage of clause-by-clause passage of the budget Friday, Hammad Azhar had to counter points that the combined opposition kept drumming through a plethora of cut motions.

Instead of confining himself to data-driven answers, Hammad Azhar preferred to contemptuously describe all members, sitting on the opposition benches, as spineless protégés of military dictators that we had from Ayub Khan to Gen Musharraf.

Doing this, he specifically focused on the PML-N and viciously recalled the days when most of its leaders, especially the Sharif family, savored patronage of General Zia and his point person in Punjab, General Jillani.

His “conscience” forgot the days of General Musharraf to its convenience, however.

The PTI backbenchers felt very excited and delighted with Hammad Azhar’s performance. With loud shouts of “chor-chor” they kept cheering him up. The PML-N tried hard to get even with equally fierce thief calling.

The number strong opposition looked tired and exhausted, though. Most of its leaders repeated themselves in brief speeches and did appear overwhelmed with realization that they were left with no chance to spring surprises while disrupting the smooth passage of the Finance Bill.

The PML-N failed to project itself as a cohesive and vigorous entity, in spite of having 80-plus members in the house. The three-hour long speech that Shehbaz Sharif had delivered as the opposition leader to initiate general discussion on budgetary proposals could not set the party on a defiant path.

As if to compensate for the pacifist or a defeated message that Shehbaz Sharif had conveyed, Ms Maryam Nawaz seemed as if compelled to address a lengthy press conference in Lahore last week.

That strengthened the feel of a house divided about the PML-N. Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s multi party conference two days ago didn’t help recovering its energy either.

With forty-plus members, the PPP, looked far more cohesive and energetic. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari spent most of his time in the house to perpetually guide and monitor a diligent participation in the budget session by his party MNAs.

Thanks to the “production order,” that the Speaker Asad Qaiser was forced to sign after three days of cautious hesitance, Asif Ali Zardari also kept coming to parliament house from NAB’s custody. He kept furnishing juicy sound bites for media.

The PPP will find it extremely difficult to sustain momentum after the end of the budget session, though. The sweltering heat of July and August does not encourage holding of big scale mass-contacting rallies.

The PPP also takes it for granted that after getting its first budget passed, the PTI will now focus on pulling the rug from under Murad Ali Shah. Rumours are rife that soon the NAB will nab the PPP-nominated Chief Minister of Sindh, eventually forcing him to vacate the seat for someone else.

Asif Ali Zardari’s time under NAB custody or in jail will certainly create environment where the PPP-hating politicians and non-political operatives can exploit to prop a new Chief Minister of Sindh, who prefers to act “independent of AAZ” and is more Islamabad-friendly.

The PPP feels confident that it can elude the possible maneuver by propping Nasir Hussain Shah as an equally loyal alternative to Murad Ali Shah.

Due to well-thought-out traps that 18th Amendment had implanted in the Constitution, opting for controlling Sindh with enforcement of Governor’s rule requires a ruthless will and coercive use of the state power.

The ideological base of the PTI strongly feels that after projecting the PPP as a “heartless gang of the plunderers of national wealth,” it can get away with enforcement of Governor’s rule in Sindh. We have to wait to find out who wins a deadly war of nerves in the end.

The same PTI base also feels that drumming up of corruption charges against the Sharif family coupled with jailing of Nawaz Sharif had defeated and disheartened the PML-N. Most of its second-tier leaders have no fighting spirit left in them. After Saad Rafique, Shahid Khakan Abbassi types are now waiting for their turn in NAB’s custody.

The Imran government thus has ample time and space to focus on executing “tough measures” that the IMF-prescribed budget has introduced.

It can smoothly pull through, “at least six more months” of gloom and anxiety caused by the sluggish economy of the country.