There are growing concerns over what may unfold in Lahore on 15th December when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) attempts to shut down Punjab’s capital. Things can either go the Karachi way or the Faisalabad way, the latter being the most likely outcome. The PML-N doesn’t hold much sway in Karachi so it was left to the PPP and the MQM to deal with Imran Khan. The Sindh government acted maturely and let Imran have his day. Party supporters were not allowed to confront the PTI and the Police were given strict instructions to avoid using force at all costs. The MQM – the most powerful and influential entity in the megacity – also decided in favour of letting the PTI follow in its footsteps and shut down Karachi. The decision wasn’t solely guided by the PPP’s and the MQM’s belief in democratic principles as they claim, but was made in view of the political implications it carried. Neither the PPP nor the MQM are interested in taking on the PTI at this point. They are much more interested in each other and the PML-N government at the center. Karachi survived the show in much better shape than Faisalabad. But now, it is Lahore’s turn.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) has directed CCPO Lahore to ensure maximum security for 15th December. They are aware that any orders they may give against the PTI will prove ineffective and only further undermine their power. The business community of Lahore isn’t onboard with the PTI. The citizenry is also divided since both parties enjoy substantial support as evident from votes cast during the 2013 election. If the PTI wants to create a ruckus, the police cannot prevent it from doing so. This is the moment where wasting time and opportunities to engage with the PTI is going to cost the PML-N. It finds itself in a lose-lose situation. If the situation turns violent, which it will if the police confronts protestors or if the traders refuse to close their business or if PML-N supporters face off with the PTI’s, the government will ultimately suffer for it has everything to lose. The government shouldn’t doubt for a second that Imran Khan is looking for blood. It has two options: leave the floor open and let Imran be the man who conquered Lahore, for a day. The second option, the better option that may be complimented with the first, is to give him something on Sunday, which changes his mind about Monday. It may be too late for him to defer the plan for Lahore, but Imran can still influence the nature of the shut down. He can keep it relatively non-violent, contained and disperse crowds by the end of the day. That’s all that is needed.