I pity the folks in Islamabad. When Ayub Khan planned a new capital for the country in the Margala Hills, I suppose he might have imagined the Metro along the Murree Road, but he surely couldn’t have imagined the leaders of the Long March going to his beloved Rawalpindi. Beloved not just because it was more familiar to that son of Haripur than Karachi, but because it housed the GHQ, which is where they went. The Army retains the GHQ, not having shifted it to Islamabad. The Navy and the Air Force have shifted there, from Karachi and Peshawar respectively, but the sector designated for the Army, E-7, was portioned into plots and parceled out, by Ziaul Haq, when he was not just COAS but CMLA. Quite frankly, there is no place in Islamabad for the Army HQ. GHQ will have to do for the foreseeable future, and frankly, it’s appropriate. Before Partition, it housed the HQ of the Indian Army’s North-Western Command, which was responsible for the tribes, including the operations to keep them quiet, the last coming in Waziristan (surprise, surprise!) before World War II began. Some things never change.

Besides, I suspect that one reason why both Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri went to Rawalpindi was to get away from the atmosphere, which must be pretty polluted by now. At least, in Rawalpindi, they could breathe without holding their hankies over their noses. And not because of the teargas that was to be fired on Saturday night. And I don’t expect the COAS had told the PM that they worked for him. That is what is widely rumoured, but I don’t think that is what he said. But the PM must have known about the soft spot. That might be why he let the COAS openly play the role of facilitator.

But the real reason for the facilitation may have been the PML(N)’s having decided to spread the chaos in Islamabad to the whole country. The Istehkam-i-Pakistan Rally in Lahore gave us a taste of what Islamabad must be going through. It was a sample of what might happen if the City was the terminus, rather than the departure-point, of a Long March. The stage was set at Charing Cross, just opposite the Punjab Assembly, and it was just like Islamabad, except for the smell. True, there was a lot of unwashed humanity, but at least that humanity had been, that morning, well before the rally. However, traffic was snarled all over the city, even where it had no right to be.

Monday’s was not the only rally. There had been one in Faisalabad the day before. And on Monday itself, apart from Lahore, there were rallies in Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Sargodha and Rawalpindi. The one in Rawalpindi was led by Raja Ashfaq Sarwar of Kahuta. That’s a little like handing over the Lahore rally to one of the Ghurkis Though admittedly the leader of the Lahore rally was Hamza Shahbaz, whose father had won the seat neighbouring the Ghurki’s rural seat in the general election, the Rawalpindi rally was certainly risky, what with the sit-ins just down the road. I don’t know if Raja Ashfaque is a match as a commander for those behind them.

If Imran thinks Indian elections are all that great, then he should be paying more attention to the warnings against Modi for including criminals in his Cabinet. That is, people against whom cases have been registered. But the thing is, Narendra Modi is still keeping them in the Cabinet. And he himself, despite presiding over the anti-Muslim pogrom which saw over 1000 Muslims massacred, never resigned as Gujerat CM. By that token, neither Nawaz nor Shahbaz should resign. Instead, they should invest in long colourful kameezes, black dhotis and pumps, while glorying in the nicknames of Nawaz Chhura and Shahbaz Blade respectively. They should apply for pre-arrest bail, and tell relatives meaningfully they’re “going for bail in a murder case” the day before. Oh, and they should engage Ahmad Reza Kasuri as their lawyer. Finally, the Indian Supreme Court left it to Modi to be wise, but then, Imran isn’t the Indian Supreme Court.

I noticed that Nawaz was in Lahore, the President in Turkey and both National Assembly and Senate prorogued when marchers tried to invade Prime Minister House, the Presidency and Parliament Building on Saturday night, or rather the wee hours of Sunday. I suppose they were desperate for a decent john, by now being tired of the fields and ditches, or behind bushes, they have been using for the last two weeks. But was it worth being teargassed?

It was frightfully mismanaged. There should have been dozens of corpses, but instead there was only one, and Imran and Dr Qadri coming under fire for not leading from the front. Well, why should they? If something was to happen to them, who would play politics on their corpses? That’s who should have led the charge. I know that the writ of the state had to be enforced, but who will end up king? Not those killed or injured. Either Nawaz will hold on, or someone else will come in. And it won’t be Imran, Dr Qadri or the heir of anyone who dies.