Considering the tense stand-off in the capital and its twin city, it would be counter intuitive to suggest that Nawaz Sharif should listen to the advice of Imran Khan, or that Imran Khan would show the Prime Minister a way out of this situation. Yet speaking after yesterday’s police action against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) workers, the party chairman has done just that. Saying that if the police will manhandle his workers, particularly women, the action would prove counterproductive as “more charged activists will descend on Islamabad now” to take part in the sit-in.

The government should’ve heeded this advice and adopted caution, but it seems that Pakistan Muslim Leauge – Nawaz (PML-N) has only two gears when it comes to managing public protest – compete discretion or complete oppression. The decreed date for the protest is still four days away, but the heavily publicised and widely transmitted images of youth workers and women being packed off into police buses has already put the capital in lockdown mode – which is furthered by their own imposition of Section 144.

The government may be using a (hastily scribbled and tailor-made) Islamabad High Court decision to prevent the November 2 protest from happening, but it doesn’t help when it interprets the order rather imaginatively.

The PTI meeting was being held at a private residence behind closed doors, while Imran Khan’s Banigala residence – which was surrounded by a heavy police contingent – does not even fall within the precinct of the federal capital. The same is true for the Awami Muslim League rally in Rawalpindi; the police moved to arrest all major party leaders and icons, which is overkill even taking into account the court’s order.

The result of all this heavy-handedness is clear; the government is painted as the aggressor, the opposition as the victim and the opposition’s cause as a just one. No one wants to see protestors beaten; no one wants to see their leader’s arrested. These oppressive actions have allowed Imran Khan and his party to build a case head of rhetoric and made the government look more worried than it really is.

The containers in the streets and the police outside Banigala have allowed Sheikh Rasheed to pull his widely viral stunt and Salman Ahmed to become a symbol of resistance. More so than before, the actions of the past two days have put the capital on edge. When the government repeats the mistakes of 2014, one wonders who is advising the Prime Minster.