The PML-N deserves full credit for facilitating Imran Khan’s Plan C and helping PTI achieve its objective of complete shutdown in Faisalabad. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must thank Raiwind’s trusted loyalists from Faisalabad including former Punjab Law minister for another mini replay of the Model Town tragedy that has surely turned the tide against Islamabad.

If democracy is all about tolerance and acceptance of the right to peaceful protest by opposition, then why is PML-N government in Punjab repeatedly resorting to violence against unarmed and peaceful protestors? Do the rulers suffer from a syndrome of fear or insecurity or are they overwhelmed with a false sense of power and pride derived from their wealth and control over state resources and law enforcement agencies?

The Model Town massacre followed by August 31 police action in Islamabad, the humiliation of blind persons in Lahore and now the Faisalabad episode, are all shining jewels of shame in the Raiwind crown.

As Pakistan’s blind cricketers fought for the country’s glory in the blind cricket World Cup, the shocked Pakistani nation watched with tearful eyes as the Punjab police blindly thrashed its blind citizens who were only pleading for their due rights. Never before in Pakistan’s history have our special persons been subjected to such disgraceful treatment.

Had the perpetrators of the Model Town killings been awarded exemplary punishments by anti terrorism courts in true spirit of the law, Faisalabad would have never seen PTI protestors being gunned down in the presence of Punjab police who seemed unmoved by the bloody violence.

Why has the Punjab police and its allied security organizations failed to nab the Faisalabad killers? That the Punjab Government and its police/ special branch/ CID or even NADRA’s state of the art technology are unable to identify the two shooters who were clearly captured by the media’s cameras, points towards a deliberate cover up at the federal/ provincial level.

While Model Town witnessed policemen firing directly into innocent Minhaj ul Quran workers, the Faisalabad killers though not in uniform, too were firing straight into the PTI crowds. A close examination of the media’s footage of a shooter clad in grey reveals his distinctive soldier style haircut and smart physique as well as agile and professional handling of the weapon.

So if the killers were not PML-N workers, then were they terrorists or criminals who were hired to do the dirty job? Or were they under cover security personnel in plain clothes assigned this task to avoid backlash on Punjab police?

If the Punjab government cannot expose the killers and their masterminds or delays the setting up of a Joint investigation Team( JIT) then it becomes the responsibility of the military’s security agencies to trace out the shooters through their own intelligence network. But the truth must be unearthed and placed before the nation.

That Faisalabad proved to be a game changer for PTI is evident from Islamabad’s willingness to restart unconditional talks with PTI’s top leadership. Why this sudden change of heart and offer of reconciliation from Nawaz Sharif?

The Sharifs survived the combined challenge posed by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and PTI’s August 14th long marches. The PTI’s dharna (Plan A) plus jalsas (Plan B) strategies were static in nature and while they created mass awareness, the real pressure on Islamabad was generated with the massive show of force on November 30 and announcement of dynamic Plan C street protests in selected cities.

Given PTI’s success in rocking the government in Faisalabad, the anger over its workers’ killing and nerve wrecking electoral battle in a few disputed constituencies of Lahore, PTI supporters are expected to respond with even greater turnout and force on December 15. If Lahore, which is considered the centre of the PML-N –PTI power play is paralyzed, then Raiwind’s moral standing and grip over Punjab and Islamabad gets further eroded.

Therefore, Raiwind just cannot afford a replay of the chaos witnessed in Faisalabad. Furthermore, the PML-N is already facing internal divisions with senior party leaders openly dissenting against Nawaz Sharif’s policies and threatening to form a ‘united muslim league’ minus the Sharifs.

And let us also not forget PAT’s plans for mass protests countrywide including Lahore on December 17th that marks the sixth anniversary of the Model Town tragedy. It is most unfortunate that families of the Model Town shuhada still await justice.

Imran Khan seems buoyed with his Plan C strategy that appears to be working in his favor. While he has announced to call off Plan C if the much awaited and promised Judicial Commission is set up immediately, he vowed to carry on with the dharna in D-square till the Commission completes its investigations.

Both PTI and PML-N must free the nation from the agony of prolonged political uncertainty and instability and adopt a saner approach to make dialogue meaningful and result oriented. The government must show strong political will and understanding in resolving the contentious issue of the Terms of Reference (TOR) and agree to a transparent and open election audit.

After media reports of grave irregularities in the conduct of the 2013 elections, the white paper on election rigging by PTI and others, reports by Election Tribunals highlighting massive unidentified votes and the Election Commission’s own admission of printing over ten million spare ballot papers, the setting up of a high powered judicial Commission is warranted.

If a Presidential Ordinance or any other government action is required to give legal cover to the judicial Commission, then that should be done with no further delay so as to meet any reservations of the Supreme Court. Any Commission comprising retired bureaucrats and civil society notables would lack credibility and acceptability before the nation.

Without requisitioning the services of elite civil and military intelligence agencies under Article 190 of the Constitution, the Judicial Commission may find its efforts being sabotaged by possible rogue elements in the Election Commission, NADRA and others involved in the 2013 elections.

Imran Khan seems clear about his plans for Lahore on December 15 and the nationwide shutdown on December 18th. The government must act, and act fast.

n    The writer is a retired brigadier and a political/defence analyst and columnist.