As he addressed a rally in Ghotki, it seemed almost as if the Prime Minister had slipped into a past version of himself; one that still roamed outside the corridors of power and rallied against the misdeeds of the government at every public gathering. Arguably, the entire party of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has still not wholly stepped out of “opposition mode”, but this speech in Ghotki was perhaps the starkest reminder of this fact.

However, the problem with the Prime Minister’s comments is not that he chose to attack the opposition in such a fashion at this occasion; but rather the implications that his attack has. Saying that the government will not let PML-N and PPP leaders off the hook “until they give the country’s money back” casts a pall over the authenticity of the accountability drive. On one hand the government – and the Prime Minister himself as well – insists that the cases against the Opposition’s politicians are the sole domain of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and related law enforcement agencies with no input from the government at all. Yet on several instances before, and now at his speech in Ghotki too, the Prime Minister has indicated that the legal process is being directed by the government; which has instructed the NAB that there should be no reprieve.

The contradiction is to glaring to be ignored – and coupled with the use of accountability as a tool of political negotiation and browbeating as we saw in this speech – it is not difficult to see why the opposition feels that it is being directly victimised.  

Saturday’s speech may have touched on all key talking points of the PTI – it is being chalked up as a success by the party – but it furthers the divide between the treasury and the opposition benches.