The Azadi March is gaining steam, with the Khan express headed towards a dramatic showdown in the Capital which many believe will decide the fate of the PML-N government. For a government that is apparently cornered, it is making surprisingly little noise or effort. Nawaz took a leisurely stroll through the Kingdom, capped it off with a relaxing weekend in Nathia Gali and now, no one really knows what he’s upto. Meanwhile, Imran has been drumming up support, taking resignations from PTI MNAs in custody to give at will and promising to send the Government packing. Simply put, the people are seeing too much of the aspiring Prime Minister, and too little of the man they elected. The public, which saw election rigging in Karachi and some parts of Lahore, now believes that the entire election was rigged, as a result of which, we have a rigged Parliament. And with no reply, no satisfactory refutation and no counter narrative being presented by the government, their suspicions are solidifying into iron resolve. With the specter of military intervention looming on the horizon which is always a distinct possibility in times of severe political turmoil, someone needs to act.

Nawaz Sharif must come out of the ministerial veil and tell people his side of the story. Unlike Khan, he is lucky to have facts on his side. With so much at stake here, there can be no half measures. The Prime Minister must address the public on national television. His speech must identify the massive loopholes in Imran’s narrative. People should be told that the government has no control over the functions of the Election Commission. That the Election Tribunals have already dealt with 73% of the cases lodged. That no reform or ‘change’ can be achieved through abrupt mid-term elections, especially since they will be conducted under the same system Imran claims to be crusading against. He must ask Imran to provide a road map to his supporters. What follows once the government is dismissed as per Imran’s desires? The idea isn’t just to discredit Imran’s argument, but also to publicly offer an olive branch to the PTI. If it is electoral reforms they want, then that is what they should be offered. With the nation as a witness, invite PTI for dialogue. If they reject, they appear unreasonable. If they accept, everyone wins. However, Nawaz should know that these promises will have to be fulfilled sooner than later.

To affirm the public’s faith in the democratic process, the government would do well to accommodate protesters rather than creating hurdles. Give them water if they’re thirsty. Provide them shade if they need it. Act like the democratic government worthy of being saved. This would go a long way to calm fears regarding troops deployment in Islamabad, and allow the government to take the moral high ground it desperately needs. At the end of the day, it is the people who will determine the government’s future. Engage with them, and bring them back.