Ms Sherry Rehman, the journalist-turned-politician, is one of my oldest and closest friends in the present parliament. With Shahid Khakan Abbassi, I enjoy deep relations of mutual respect.

At the outset of this column, one felt the need to disclose this before objectively reporting that the story they had narrated through a jointly addressed press conference Thursday had stated but the whole truth. A set of credible sources, both from the government and the opposition, has separately confirmed the reality of it as well.

These indeed were the emissaries of Imran government, who first approached the opposition for speedy approval of certain laws, with consensus, around ten days ago. Most of these laws were required to facilitate Pakistan’s exit from the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

There also were suggestions to “review and reform” the law, which had provided near-draconian powers to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the name of fighting against corruption. For the quick and formal delivery on these fronts, a 25-member committee of parliamentarians from the national assembly and the Senate was then established.

The said committee took no time to reach consensus on two FATF-related laws. In the original drafts of these laws, certain definitions and expressions had been used, which hostile and not so friendly countries could use against Pakistan, if and when the need be. Shahid Khakan Abbassi and Ms Sherry Rehman needed no tutor for spotting them.

After all, Abbassi had been the Prime Minister of Pakistan for more than a year. That enabled him to empirically fathom the pressure Pakistan has been facing for two decades, when it came to the issue of “terrorism” and the tools of financing it.

Senator Sherry Rehman, on the other hand, was Pakistan’s ambassador to the USA, during a very difficult period when relations between Islamabad and Washington were turning more complicated in post-Osama environment.

The government also desired that another law should be enforced as well to combat what it called “economic terrorism.” It pretended as if the same law was also required by FATF. That surprised the opposition representatives. They forcefully demanded how and when the FATF had asked for the proposed law. The government had no satisfactory answer.

In the end, it was agreed that “corrections,” suggested by the opposition would be incorporated in two FATF-related laws. Then the attention was switched to “review and reform” the NAB-empowering law. At no point during the said negotiations, the

opposition had ever taken the position that it would cooperate in passing the FATF-related laws, only if the government agreed to soften the NAB-empowering law as well.

But Shah Mehmud Qureshi, the foreign minister, had viciously sabotaged the evolving consensus. During Tuesday-sitting of the national assembly early this week, he entered the house with his usual huff and delivered a very long speech.

Through the same, he passionately promoted the story that instead of rushing to speedy passage of FATF-related laws, as required by the “supreme national interest,” the opposition had been playing hard to get. In return for its cooperation, near indemnity was sought for those opposition leaders, currently facing serious charges of corruption.

After claiming this, he kept thundering to drum the message that fighting corruption remained the “key agenda” of Imran Khan’s politics. He wouldn’t concede an inch on this count, rain or shine. For the cause of combating corruption, he was even willing to sacrifice his government.

The opposition was denied the right of telling its side of the story. Shah Mehmud Qureshi rather left the house after promoting a narrative, which seriously dented the image and reputation of both the main opposition parties.

The opposition failed to manage damage control the day after and on Wednesday the Imran government got the FATF-related laws passed with voice voting. Doing this, it certainly appeared bulldozing.

The laws, passed in haste from the national assembly, were to be tabled in the Senate Thursday. Imran government does not enjoy even the simple majority there; the combined numbers of the opposition are rather indomitable. The upper house of parliament could have easily ‘rejected’ the FATF-related laws, already approved by the lower house.

But Shah Mehmud Qureshi had cleverly spun and promoted a narrative, which could question the ‘patriotic’ credentials of opposition senators, if they had out rightly rejected the national assembly approved laws. Yet, the opposition intelligently dealt with the quandary and during the standing committee meeting persuaded the government that certain amendments, it had already proposed, must be inserted in the version, eventually to be approved by the Senate. Doing this, it achieved a win-win solution.

With minor changes, the Senate has approved two FATF-related laws Thursday, almost with consensus. Only Jamiat-e-Ulma-e-Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rehman loudly expressed the dissent. Reading a written statement for expressing the same, Senator Atta-ur-Rehman, who is the younger brother of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, also announced distance from two main opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and the PPP. He rather felt cheated and betrayed by “our friends in the opposition.” This also scuttled the possibility of a grand alliance of opposition parties, the hopes for which had begun to resurrect with beginning of the ongoing week.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman had gone to Lahore to call on Shehbaz Sharif, the PML-N President. A day after this meeting, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was also seen standing next to the PML-N leader. Loud vibes for launching a mass movement for toppling the Imran government, after Eid, were visibly noticed during these meeting. It also triggered hype on regular and social media.

Shah Mehmud Qureshi felt too good and pleased about the win-win happenings of Thursday. He was rather too syrupy while praising the “maturity and sincerity” of those opposition parties, who helped the speedy passage of FATF-related laws. Almost like a sycophant, he continued expressing gratitude to cooperating senators. He acknowledged them for being ‘patriots,’ showing the will of thinking, “not for their persons or the respective political parties, but for the state of Pakistan and its supreme national interest.”

After the buttering speech of Shah Mehmud Qureshi, the PTI senators felt the need to reiterate that things had just not turned honky-dory between their party and the combo of the PML-N and the PPP. Dr. Wasim Shezad, the leader of the house in the Senate, played the first shot in this context by recalling as to how “conveniently” a “day-light killer of Pakistanis, Raymond Davis,” was allowed to leave Pakistan. This US citizen had been hired ‘on contract’ to take care of the ‘security interests’ of his country by stationing himself in Lahore.

The real attack came from Senator Faisal Javed, a diehard loyalist of Imran Khan. With taunting tone and tickling words, he mocked the ‘legacy’ of the both the main opposition parties. Without naming names, he dropped heavy hints to recall that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the PPP founder, had joined politics as a minister of Ayub Khan, the first military dictator. Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, rose and rose on power scene under the patronizing wings of another military dictator, General Zia.

Imran Khan never enjoyed such patronage, he proudly recalled, and had reached the Prime Minister’s Office after 22-year-long struggle. Javed was fully confident that after completing its five-year term, the PTI would again return to power with far heavier mandate after the next election.

In praising his leader, Senator Mohsin Aziz went a step further. He insisted that Prime Minister Imran Khan was a “gift of God” to Pakistan. He remains doubly lucky for having people like Shehbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, heading the main opposition parties.

The art of politics, for sure, is all about perceptions and narrative-promotion. Judged from this angle, the Imran government has definitely been scoring point after a point for the past three days. They looked perfectly justified to “celebrate victory” in the Senate Thursday after deft management of the perception building game.