Throughout the Thursday sitting, the number strong opposition indeed kept the government on its toes to ensure full presence of its members in the house.

Pressing cut motions on energy-related issues, however, it could neither spin headline-grabbing stories nor create any significant embarrassment for treasury benches.

Even a forced head count at one point, clearly showed that the government and its allies had 26 more members present in house than 143 of the combined opposition.

Sustaining such edge, the Imran government will smoothly leap through the procedural ropes and rites to get its first budget passed by the scheduled date, i.e., June 29.

Close to this head count, Prime Minister entered the house. The treasury benches welcomed him with full-throated slogans and fierce desk thumping.

Taking advantage of a point of order, Mian Shehbaz Sharif, the Opposition Leader, was wailing over the free fall of Pak rupee against the US dollar, when the Prime Minister entered the house.

In sycophantic binge, a huge group of the PTI backbenchers began shouting “Chor-chor (thief)” to disrupt Shehbaz Sharif. Not his person but whole of the Sharif family was called a bunch of reckless looters.

That provoked the PML-N benches to spring up from their seats in unison and target the person and a very close relative of Imran Khan with equally fierce name-calling.

Most ministers and Amir Dogar, the chief whip of the ruling party, took no time to realise that apparently Imran-pleasing conduct of their colleagues would impede the speed of budget passing and might lead to disruptive scuffles as well. They had to struggle hard to bring business-as-usual calm to the house.

Hammad Azhar, the minister of revenue, was still not willing to forget and forgive. Rudely dandling an accusing finger at Shehbaz Sharif, he attempted hard to vend the story that a gang of “hit men,” controlling decision making when it came to devising economic policies for the PML-N government, eventually pushed Pakistan towards almost becoming a hostage to the IMF.

Shehbaz Sharif was visibly hurt and annoyed with Azhar’s intervention. He dared him to opt for a full-fledged debate, “here and now,” to decide as to who in effect worked like helpless puppets for ultimate monitors of the global economy.

Once upon a time, the House of Sharifs was almost like a family to Hammad Azhar’s father and grandfather. They began falling apart in the early 1990s and have now turned like two titanic clans, viciously fighting for absolute control of the political scene of Lahore.

Recklessly betraying the polite traditions of his family, Hammad Azhar often turns too personal in settling scores with Shehbaz Sharif during in house proceedings.

Doing this, he seldom remembers that primarily he has been enduring the heat and dust of a furiously divided National Assembly, to project and defend policies that Dr Hafeez Shaikh had exclusively devised.

The sole objective of these policies is to fulfill precondition that the IMF has set for approving a bailout package for Pakistan.

Not for a moment, the ultimate “hit man” of these days, Dr Shaikh, ever came to the National Assembly when it remained busy for more than two weeks to discuss the budgetary proposals.

By aggressively owning these proposals, the youthful Azhar seems recklessly oblivious to fatal blowback that they might create for the potential of a vote-dependent politician like him.

After discovering that juicy stuff could not be extracted from house proceedings, most reporters were anxiously roaming in the lobbies to get hold of any of the opposition politicians who had attended the Multi-Party Conference that Maulana Fazlur Rehman had hosted Wednesday.

All of us had found out by now that the PML-N and the PPP were yet not willing to resign from the National Assembly and begin focusing on preparations for collecting a massive crowd in Islamabad, which should keep shaking the Imran government until its fall.

A large number of reporters also kept pressing Akhtar Mengal to find out as to why he opted not to attend the MPC in the end. And preferred having an exhaustive meeting with the Prime Minister to strike ‘a deal.”

Mostly sitting in the cafeteria, Mengal braved the volley of questions with a smile. He never sounded apologetic and justified his conduct with valid-sounding arguments.

I don’t need to repeat them; for, without talking to him I have been trying to explain them in previous two columns.

In spite of ending like a “nonstarter,” primarily for being judged in the context of media hype built about it, the MPC did succeed building consensus on an interest point: removal of the incumbent Chairman of the Senate, Sadiq Sanjrani.

Ironically, both the PTI and the PPP had collaborated to prop him up to this office in folding months of the previous government.

Both these parties tried hard to sell the story that they propped him to address the accumulated grievances of a resource-rich but miserably poor province: Balochistan. The PML-N continues to believe otherwise.

The combined opposition surely savors the numerical edge in upper house of parliament. Removal of Sanjrani is thus not a hard task. Who should replace him is the question, though?

Raza Rabbani, a former Chairman, is the one and only favourite of “democracy-loving” crowd of parliamentary reporters. Asif Ali Zardari does not feel that good about his “principled obsessions,” however.

Even otherwise, most politicians and commentators seriously believe that a Baloch should replace a Baloch. Hasil Khan Bizenjo is fast emerging as the hot favourite, therefore. But there is a proverbial rub.

The PPP appreciates that the PML-N savors the decisive edge in the Senate and it may want to promote and support Hasil. Yet, it does not feel too comfortable with his unwavering admiration for Nawaz Sharif.

The JUI-F of Maulana Fazlur Rehman considers itself an important stakeholder of the power games in Balochistan. It does not approve and endorse the “progressive/liberal” posturing of Hasil Khan Bizenjo. And, it also has one of its senior leaders, Abdul Ghafoor Haidri, sitting in the Senate.

The so-called hawkish camp of the PML-N desperately needs to pamper Maulana Fazlur Rehman these days: only he can bring a huge crowd of dedicated cadres to Islamabad for staging an impressive-looking show against the Imran government.

The PPP also needs to appease him for another reason. After a death in famously rich and powerful Mahar family of Ghotki (Sindh), a seat of the provincial assembly has become vacant.

The PPP had lost this seat during the elections of July 25, 2018. It wants to win it via the by-election by all means.

The heir of the late patriarch of the Mahar family, the youthful incumbent Sardar, Mohammad Bakhsh, had agreed to contest for the vacant seat on a PPP ticket.

But one of his visibly “more resourceful and political” uncles is trying hard to dampen the chances of Mohammad Bakhsh. Doing so, he is vigorously preparing himself to extract dividends, if and when Murad Ali Shah is removed from the office of Chief Minister Sindh.

The JUI-F had also fielded a candidate on this seat. He had enviable held together a dedicated-team of religiously moved cadres.

Defeating a Mahar on a provincial seat from Ghotki is almost next to impossible. But due to the split in the Mahar family, the JUI-F had the potential of spoiling the chances of the youthful and politically inexperienced PPP nominee for the provincial seat.

Asif Ali Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman are literally a match made in heavens when it comes to striking a deal with each other.

Maulana can win the support of Asif Ali Zardari for his nominee for the office of the Chairman Senate, by not only withdrawing his candidate in Ghotki but also showing that the JUI-F cadres worked hard to ensure the win of PPP-nominated candidate.

You can imagine the rest to feel sorry for Hasil Khan Bizenjo!