Jamiat Ulema-e Islam Fazl (JUI-F) and their narrative against the sitting government in the form of the Azadi March is gaining momentum. One because despite mainstream parties’ lack of blatant support, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has shown interest in supporting the March post-Nawaz Sharif’s order to do so. There is also a great chance that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will also join the collective bloc once the March gains momentum. This will put a lot of pressure on the government which was labelling the March as pressure tactics and political gimmicks of Maulana Fazlur Rehman to gain political clout.

Second, because the government now seems distressed about the March itself. We have witnessed that in the form of the economic safety narrative that the government is now building. With staunch criticism against the economic policies of the government, they have still managed to bring down the trade deficit by 35 percent. Although the day to day reality of the average consumer is not favourable but the government is trying to manage its revenue streams. How much this narrative works in the favour of the government will depend on how each side, opposition and government, strategises.

The government is also keeping avenues for negotiations open. Despite the strong narrative of no-negotiations by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, he did show leniency in the case of postponing the march for Kashmir Accession Day. If the government manages to get them on the table, the March can be steered in the government’s favour. At this point, there is also a difference of opinion within mainstream parties against the support of the March for a number of reasons including the impact of the March on the economy and the failure of the government to negotiate. If the government lobbies in time, the chaos can be prevented.

Another aspect is that the situation is very similar to the protests by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) during PML-N’s government. We have already seen the outcome of such protests. Despite massive support, the pressure was not enough to convince the government to resign. With parties like PML-N and PPP in the mix, parties that have consistently supported the narrative of letting democratically elected governments run, it will interesting to see how they manage this paradigm with the Azadi March. If JUI-F manages to get the support it claims along with the support of PML-N and PPP, the government will be in for a tough challenge.