If one goes by the tongue-in-cheek observations of some TV talk show anchors, the PML-N’s days are numbered. It is implied that massive rallies and dharnas in Islamabad are bound to create a situation that will force incumbent governments to agree to mid-term elections.

Imran Khan has upped the ante by asserting that because of rigging in the 2013 elections, the present government cannot be considered legitimate and polls under their auspices will mean a repetition of the farce of another (rigged) election. Hence this government has to go and a new electoral set-up forged for electing the real representatives of the people.

Looking back, Imran had given the PML-N a month to provide answers to his four questions relating to the way the 2013 elections were held. Characteristically, Nawaz Sharif did not take this notice seriously. Imran’s challenge was thus practically ignored giving him the excuse and opportunity of declaring that time had run out and the goal-post shifted.

As for Tahir-ul-Qadri’s threat of launching a revolution, the government, weakened as it was after the Model Town incident, resorted to subject Qadri to tax-default notices. According to him, he and his organization have been asked to pay more than 700 million rupees to the FBR. Undeterred, Qadri has stuck to his resolve to wipe the government out on account of corruption, and for its failing to abide by certain provisions of the Constitution.

Instead of rising to the occasion to take Imran Khan seriously and somehow finding a way to engage him with a view to finding a solution to the problem, the government let the matter drift and the situation deteriorate from bad to worse. Valuable time was lost.

It is puzzling how most of the TV channels are vying with each other to project the PTI and PAT. Mr. Qadri has often been seen waxing eloquence, quoting scriptures and Articles of the Constitution of Pakistan to convincingly establish his case for the Inqilab. He claims the people have the right to rise and do away with an “incompetent, corrupt and cruel” administration.

There has hardly been a befitting response on the electronic media to the vilification campaign raging against the government. Sheikh Rasheed is often found firing broadsides from almost every channel. Thus the electronic media reinforces the noise raised by the opposition. (Geo, in spite of repeated assurances by the minister for information, has not yet been restored.) The government’s near-paralysis is inexplicable.

Too much is at stake; the incumbent government and democracy itself.

The regime’s deeply unfortunate behaviour in Model Town has been condemned even by the PPP, which has joined the rest of the opposition in denouncing the federal government for extended load-shedding inflicted on citizens. This, coupled by Zardari’s utterances about the PML-N leadership, and an indication of support for Imran Khan, has added to the government’s discomfiture. There is speculation that the PPP may make a common cause with Imran Khan, at some stage.

There is little doubt that the Sharif brothers have been found wanting in facing the odds stacked against them confidently. Instead of resolving to unite, or to demonstrate strength, there have been fissures in the party high command itself.

How could the Prime Minister, for instance, fly away to another land for ten days in the midst of complete political chaos and a war with over a million displaced people?

Yet another surprise was sprung. Without consulting the leader of the opposition, the army was asked to take over security of Islamabad under Article 245 of the Constitution on the grounds that a terrorist blow-back was imminent. It is widely believed that the army has been called in to help the government deal with the PTI (and possibly the PAT) rallies and dharnas. It appears that the government has done so, in panic, and not out of prudence to ward off a Taliban strike.

A word about the civil-military relations. The Musharraf trial is an issue of real contention. The fact remains that the government had a good case. The top brass was to be convinced that a bitter pill had to be swallowed to uphold the supreme law of the land. The Geo episode further added to the misunderstandings. Above all, the lethargic handling of talks with the Taliban resulted in the shifting of the initiative to the army which went ahead to start off the military operation in North Waziristan.

In the Indian Express, C. Raja Mohan a veteran journalist, in a recent column, has reviewed two new books on the Pakistan Army. One is authored by Christine Fair, titled “Fighting to the End.” The second is titled “The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan,” by Aqil Shah.

Mohan says, “Few armies in the world attract the kind of policy and scholarly attention that the Pakistan army does. Rightly so, for its institutional primacy at home and strategic influence abroad have few parallels. Many armies have run their countries, but most of them had to eventually yield to democratic change and civilian control. The Pakistan army however, exercises extraordinary power, whether in the barracks or the chancelleries. It controls Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, manipulates its domestic politics, shapes its internal security and runs the critical accounts of the country’s foreign policy with India, Afghanistan, China, the Gulf and the United States.” Speaking of Aqil Shah’s book, he further states, “Like Fair, he (Shah) too delves deep into the Pakistan army’s mindset and its self perception as the guardian of the nation… he poses two important questions: One, can the army really be pushed back to the barracks? And two, who will guard the guardians?

Therein is much food for thought for Mian Sahib.

    The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.