Discontent is simmering; it seems like the pot was never taken off the flames at all. Deep into its tenure, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) is still making fervent promises rather than displaying provable results. The masses, patiently waiting for the “tabdeeli” they were guaranteed are starting to buckle under the crushing electricity bills, unchecked inflation, multiple food shortages and growing unemployment. More than ever before, the ruling party seems to be sitting on uncertain ground, holding on to power and staving off crisis after crisis.

The situation seems to be ripe for a mass protest to exploit and it appears that Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman thinks the same thing. The cleric is intent on reviving the aborted “Azadi march” protests and intends to bring the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) back to the federal capital while taking a shot at the provincial capitals of Punjab and Sindh as well. The ruling party may have confidently fended off the last attempt; can it do so again in a much more restive social atmosphere?

The PTI will find that the JUI-F chief may not be as amenable as last time. Maulana Fazl claims that he ended the last protest after he was assured that Prime Minister Imran Khan would immediately step down and new elections would be held three months after his resignation. If he and his party are still harboring the indignation of broken promises, it would be difficult to convince the JUI-F of newer compromises.

What compromises will they be after? Will it be the same narrow demand for the resignation of the Prime Minister or a much broader agenda remains to be seen. In either case the PTI stands to lose.

The ruling party will count on the opposition’s disunity. If the other opposition parties stay away from the protest as they did the last time, the result may yet be the same as before; an inglorious retreat in the pouring Islamabadi rain. But that is a tenuous hope to count on; if either one of the main opposition parties – the Pakistan Peoples Party(PPP) and the Pakistan Muslin League – Nawaz (PML-N) – decides to join the protest the situation might get very challenging for the government. Since the last protest relations have only deteriorated between the government and the opposition, there is every chance the opposition might decide to join the fray this time around.

Although it seems to have kept Pakistan Muslin League – Quaid (PML-Q) on its side for now, the cracks in the alliance should warn the government how easily things can go wrong. The PTI is living on a prayer at the moment, hoping that all the forces arrayed against it don’t combine. The pot is boiling; the ruling party must take it off the flames before it is too late.