Despite the agreement over holding talks for the formation of a judicial commission to probe rigging and a meeting on Thursday between Ahsan Iqbal (PML-N) and Asad Umar (PTI) to break the ice, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) remains steadfast on its plan to shut down major cities and eventually the entire country “to pressurise the government into meeting its demands”. After Faisalabad, it was Karachi’s turn on Friday. The PTI was successful in shutting down several major arteries of the city while some parts remained largely unaffected. All in all, it was the sort of show that has allowed the PTI to claim success whereas other parties can just as easily make the opposite case. Sindh government’s patient handling of the situation ensured that the scenes of violence and chaos witnessed in Faisalabad were not recreated in Karachi; something that the PML-N ought to learn from. The PTI came, partially shut down the city, blew off its steam and left. By evening, the city had already returned to normal.

The prevailing mistrust between the PML-N and the PTI is preventing the former from calling off or deferring “Plan C” and the latter from proceeding absent assurances on the matter. The PTI believes that calling off the campaign would put the PML-N in a position of strength, which would have a direct impact on the negotiations. It has good reason to believe such, for the government has already been attempting to strong-arm the PTI following the failure of Plans A and B. The ruling party’s tactics in Faisalabad, the aggressive tone of its ministers and its unwillingness to return to the table have served to further reinforce the PTI’s apprehensions. The government has been stressing on the need to create a conducive environment for meaningful dialogue. It finds it unreasonable for the PTI to blackmail it with street power to gain advantage. They’re both right because they’re both at fault. The PTI has time and again demonstrated its tendency to go back on its word and employ violence for political purposes. The PML-N government has shown that nothing short of what the PTI is currently doing will prompt it to take it seriously and act; it starts throwing punches if it is not receiving them.

Negotiation committees from the two parties are expected to meet on Sunday. During his address in Karachi and also before that, Imran Khan has made no secret of how anxious he is to bring the show to Lahore. Both the PTI and the PML-N enjoy massive support in the city. It is also viewed as the PML-N’s stronghold. The symbolism of the PTI exercising its muscle against the PML-N in Lahore will not be lost on anyone. If the business community and citizens refuse to observe the shut down, the PTI will have to use force. That will invite retaliation, assuming that the PML-N doesn’t start the fight on its own. It is hoped that the two will settle things on the table in time, and avoid confrontation.