Ceaseless heckling throughout the presidential address to joint parliamentary sitting Thursday did not surprise me at all.

With the advent of 1990s, each president of our polarized republic has been enduring the same kind of mayhem while addressing these sittings.

In 1994, some PML-N legislators had even reached the dais with determined-looking intent of physically assaulting the then President, Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari.

Keeping “the ugly and uncivilized” precedents in mind, one of our presidents in uniform, Pervez Musharraf, preferred eluding the ritual of addressing a parliamentary sitting with the commencement of its new year, even after “restoring democracy” in 2002.

After his leaving the Presidency in 2008, however, the political class eventually realized that presidential address to parliament was a solemn affair. It deserves some decorum and polite appearances. Igniting the street-brawl reflecting chaos on such occasion ruins the collective image of all parliamentarians in the end.

One felt sad Thursday, after realizing that instead of moving forward, we are fast returning to either/or showdowns of yesteryears. The event did not promise calm and stability to our political scene for many months to come.

President Arif Alvi did not appear perturbed with ominous looking happenings, though. With absolute confidence, he kept focused on digital prompters placed before his dais and finished reading a rather lengthy text like a homework driven student.

The speech drafted for him was tediously bureaucratic. It lacked vigor and commitment and its language remained unbearably banal.

Sitting in the press gallery one could not get even a word of it, though. Prime Minister Imran Khan and many ruling party legislators used headphones to hear the president clearly. They also kept cheering him up with frequent desk thumping.

But diplomats sitting in the VVIP gallery preferred watching “the scene.” They also avoided reading of the text of presidential speech to spot some points for deep consideration.

The visible indifference of diplomats, crowding the VVIP gallery, worried me for the fact that opening part of the presidential speech was carefully drafted to stay focused on the issue of Kashmir and attempted to elaborate it for the global community in an appropriate historic context.

To ensure the smooth reading of at least this part of the speech, the PTI handlers of the parliamentary business should have taken some initiatives.

The number-strong opposition had surely discovered by now that the Imran government would never allow the legislators, arrested by NAB or other agencies for allegedly committing serious crimes of mega corruption, to attend parliamentary sittings.

Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly hates the practice of allowing the arrested legislators’ presence in parliamentary sittings. He keeps insisting that “corrupt politicians” abuse this practice to “look respectable.” They should rather be treated with contempt and forced to endure the same pain and tribulations, hardened criminals have to face after being caught by law enforcers.

He even feels annoyed with “VIP treatment” some politicians used to take for granted when sent to jails or interrogation cells.

Yet with smart management, government representatives could have persuaded the opposition to let the President finish his Kashmir-related portion, before standing up for heckling.

By maintaining courteous silence during initial portion of Arif Alvi’s speech, our representatives could have conveyed it to the world that in spite of viciously divided due to serious difference, the government and the opposition speak with one voice when it comes to Kashmir.

In the context of Kashmir, one should also report that although flaunting huge portraits of their arrested leaders, the slogan chanting crowd of the opposition legislators mostly stayed focused on promoting the accusation that Imran government had “sold Kashmir.”

Some Maulanas of the religious-right also indulged in fierce sloganeering to drum the feeling that the government was all set to “recognize Israel” to please its “friends and financiers,” running governments in some powerful countries.

The ruling party and its allies did not appear present in the house in full strength. Benches rather looked almost deserted when the slogan-chanting crowd left their seats to huddle around the Speaker’s dais.

With visibly sadistic smirk, the Prime Minister appeared as if feeling amused with absolute bedlam around him. Most of his ministers looked defeated and disheartened, though.

The over protective backbenchers did not care to erect a human wall around the Prime Minister either. Probably, they wanted to avoid scuffles with the disrupting crowd and let the President rush through reading his speech without being nervous or distracted.

The press gallery kept hooked to wondering about a “significant missing” from the gallery reserved for senior state officials. It had certainly happened for the first time in our parliamentary history. I would prefer to skip speculating about this absence, however.

Far more important to me looked the missing of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari from the joint parliamentary sitting of Thursday. Sources that I trust told me that the PPP Chairman had gone to Dadu for attending an important event and I should take his absence lightly.

But sources, keeping a vigilant eye on the political scene of Sindh these days, kept claiming that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was staying put in his home province for the past so many days “by design.”

Pakistan Peoples Party, they claim, “is now convinced that the federal government is about to strike at their government in Sindh.”

Farogh Nasim, the law minister from the MQM quota, has feverishly begun talking about article 149(4) of our constitution. According to his interpretation, the said article empowers the Federal Government to take Karachi under its direct control, when the PPP government in Sindh appears to have been “failing to keep this most populous city of Pakistan clean.”

For the past two weeks, the most watched TV shows have been wailing nonstop over the heaps of garbage in Karachi.

Lest you forget, during the election of July 2018, the PTI had attracted a huge number of voters in Karachi. The majority of MNAs and MPAs in the city had won on its ticket.

Since 1988, the MQM had been dominating the electoral scene in Karachi. But in 2018, it stood second to the PTI.

Both the parties are now partners in the federal government and their Karachi-connected leaders strongly feel that they must appear to be sincerely addressing issues related to provision of basic civil amenities to the residents of most populous city of Pakistan.

The PPP loyalists, however, insist that references to article 149(4) are mere deception. “The real game” is to install a PTI-friendly government in Sindh and let it “flourish without being obsequious to the dictates of Asif Ali Zardari.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the same sources claim, is staying put in Sindh to “dig trenches” to prevent and, if need be, face the “imminent looking assault” on PPP government in Sindh.

Things would surely appear more frighteningly polarized on our political scene, if suspicions of the PPP loyalists proved correct in the end.