LAHORE - Unlike the previous protests, the ruling PML-N and its rival PTI are engaged in a direct battle for taking over the federal capital.

Both the parties enjoy support from their allies. But the quantum and nature of the same is not the same as witnessed two years ago when almost all the parliamentary parties stood behind the PML-N government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for protecting democratic sturcture prevailing in the country.

Then, PTI had declared protest against the ruling party for a totally different cause and in different environment. At present, it appears to be war-like situation as both parties are determined to achieve their objectives: PTI wants to shut down the capital city, while the PML-N is aimed at cracking down on the opposition to preclude that happening.

Back in 2014, the issue was election rigging that found little favour from the other parties which smelt ‘a scheme therein to denude them of the public mandate’. Contrary to that, now is the issue of Panama leaks and later planting of a story against the military in a national daily, that had direct bearing with the ruling Sharif family and the N-government respecticively, which today have taken the central stage.

The situation is such that the government’s friends of the past, particularly the Pakistan People’s Party, stand in the opposing camp; while the regional parties which were much vocal siding with the PM and the N league at that time are sitting on the fence.

Yet the situation is turning volatile and changing with every passing minute. In the field, it is PTI protesters pushing their way to the federal capital and the ruling party resisting their way by every means. After taking considerable time and hesitation, the Pakistan Awami Tehrik and the Pakistan Muslim League- Q have announced to support the PTI protest by practically taking part in the action. But both the parties do not have any visible presence in the protest show and help is limited to statements against the crackdown on PTI men and restrictions imposed on their way. Led by Pervez Elahi, PML-Q can move in on or before November 2. PAT has also promised yet it is still deciding how to join the PTI in Islamabad. The actual driving force for the activists of this religio-political party is its chairman, Dr Tahirul Qadri, who is not taking part in the protest but can spring a surprise by doing that anytime.

In 2014, Dr Qadri marched on the capital city with thousands of his supporters. Simultaneously, PTI took out its rallies toward Islamabad’s D-Chowk. Both these political forces synchronized their anti-government moves to achieve a common objective of pressing resignation of the PM albeit on varying grounds.

Then the PTI was carried away by the thought of electoral rigging to move against the government while the PAT was badly stung by and in deep pain over the killing of its 14 workers in Lahore for which it stood up for revenge.

Now from more personal of the past to more national one, the PTI is crying out for help from the whole nation for “ending corruption through ending rule of the corrupt,” which it believes is the root-cause of every problem facing the layman.

PPP which swung with the PTI on Panama issue in the beginning is closely watching its political interests. The party is equally antagonistic to the PML-N on Panama and scandalous story issue and wants the PM to step down.

Apparently it is opposed to the idea of shutting down Islamabad, yet reluctance of this party to join cause with PTI is from risking its political future in Sindh, hiding its own skeletons of corruption, keeping a political space with PML-N for return of Asif Ali Zardari to the country and on the cases against its key leaders. Atop all, not to let PTI take a leading role in protest; this might fail PPP’s efforts in regaining foothold in Punjab. Now the PPP has announced independent battle against the government if its four demands will not be met. Still, the PPP government in Sindh has given a free hand to PTI activists to join Imran Khan in Islamabad.

Interestingly, the PPP leadership in Punjab under the auspices of Aitzaz Ahsan is taking a more bold and open stand against the PM and the PML-N government than that of Sindh.

As to the Jamaat-e-Islami, it too has preferred to independently fight the government on the question of corruption in its ranks and files. After very hard hitting speech by its Sirajul Haq at the end of three-day convention in Lahore, the party appears supporting the PTI cause if not on the street but through media. So far joining the PTI in Islamabad protest appears a remote possibility on the part of JI.

MQM which was thick with PML-N two years ago on PTI dharna, appears neutral at present as all its three factions are in a hard race to get their recognition as genuine Mohajir party at the national level for which the N liking is for the MQM led by Dr Farooq Sattar.

JUI-F and ANP both are dead against the PTI and are openly sided with the PML-N. After initial round of venting fury against the PTI on the question of Panama, they have become somewhat silent after the scandalous story issue against the government. These parties are playing carefully as they always do and act to turn the table on the on other side as their interest would guide them.

In nutshell, the situation is fluid and the mood of all political parties can change in light of the outcome of the PTI November 2 show which on being stretched further from that date, as observers say, is likely to become more and more lethal for the government mobilising other political parties to fetch them in with equal pace.