LAHORE - The PML-N government has expedited efforts to consolidate its frontiers against the August 14 onslaught of Pakistan Tehrike Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek which are attacking the government, but for varied purposes.
Contacts with the political parties hold the key to the government efforts to muster their support against the forces which the government believes are out to get everything topsy-turvy. The government is asking PTI and PAT to shun the protest move on the Independence Day in view of the national sentiments attached to this big event, but they stuck to their guns.
The PML-N governments at the Centre and the Punjab complain that both PTI and PAT are not willing to give up the protest plans. However, a turning point can come if both the parties decide to stage a combined sit-in at Islamabad D-Chowk on the Independence Day that can create a real trouble for the government.
The PAT which speaks of bringing about a revolution by way of scrapping the whole system of election, governance and bureaucracy in the country is taking time to announce a final date for the protest. Reports suggest PAT Chairman Qadri who has come to the frontline overriding PML-Q is playing his cards close to his chest. He is watching the situation closely and can agree on a joint protest with PTI against the government on any other agreed date if not on August 14. On the other hand, PTI wants fresh polls within the current system to get rid of the PML-N government. Both the parties claim they will topple the government on that day.
The government has so far not planned to counter the protest, but to dilute the effect of the opposition protest through peaceful means. It has worked out 15-day-long celebrations of the Independence Day, starting from August 1, in all the four provincial metropolises of the country with the main function in Islamabad on August 14. The government is using this independence programme also to meet its political ends as the political leaders and the foreign diplomats are also being invited to the big day celebrations.
Reports suggest that from August 1 onwards till the Independence Day strict vigilance will be maintained in the federal and the provincial capitals which will help the government to keep a close eye on the PAT and PTI protest preparations and adopt measures to fail them. The Islamabad Independence Day programme would naturally demand a high security for which the charge has been given to Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan who can prevent the protesters from entering the federal capital.
Sources in the party say the PML-N is broadening its political support. They also say PTI Chairman Imran Khan could also be invited to the freedom day celebrations. At the same a concern strikes the mind what the situation would be if Khan accepts the invitation to reach the venue along with his thousands of workers and supporters.
Sources confide that a three-member committee, headed by Irfan Siddiqui, is busy meeting the political leaders while the main leaders of the party are in touch with those close to them. In a meeting with Siddiqi, the JI leadership agreed to support the government to protect democracy although this party is an ally of PTI in PK.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself had a meeting with Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah who has time and again pledged commitment of his party to democracy. Khursheed Shah has also been guided on the same lines by PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. The PM also held a meeting with the MQM delegation last days on the Karachi law and order situation, but the sources said the body language of the MQM leaders at the meeting showed this party would remain neutral and side with safety of the democratic system. KP Governor Sardar Mehtab Khan also met former interior minister Aftab Ahmad Sherpao who pledged his support to democracy. The PM also met JUI-F Amir Maulana Fazlur Rehman who, later, told media persons he did not support any anti-democracy and anti-government move.
PML-N has also activated its ulem, women, youth and other wings to project the development projects and programmes to the public to counter the adverse propaganda.
The sources say the main fear of the government is not from PTI and PAT, but it is afraid of an action from the third force.