When this column goes into print, it will be 17th of August 2014 and both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri would have reached their respective sit in venues in the Federal Capital. Their wish lists would have been stated and it is expected that Khan Sahib’s core demands i.e. PM’s resignation and dissolution of the PML N Government leading to a midterm election would have fallen on deaf ears.

Just before the PTI and PAT marches began, I told a friend that the event could never be trouble free given the ruling party’s mindset. I was immediately labelled a political pessimist, who had misread the whole situation. I have just rung up the concerned gentleman, who sheepishly admitted that like me, he too was watching live television images from Gujranwala, showing PML N activists pelting PTI workers and their Chairman’s container with stones. Whether such provocations would be repeated at other points on the route is something that will test the Punjab Government’s credibility considering the fact that the ruling Party appears to have shed all vestiges of democratic façade to expose its true character.

Many of my friends living in suburban Islamabad, shifted to the city a day before we became a container prison. I have interacted with media colleagues and members of the civil society living in the Federal Capital to arrive at the disturbing conclusion that their concerns are now reaching the limits of fear. One major apprehension relates to the safety of their families and properties, while the other stems from the fact that stocks of food and potable water are likely to dwindle if the supply chain to the city is not reopened soon. It is ironic that the citizens of the Federal Capital may face a situation akin to a siege – thanks to a Government that appears to have become delusional regarding their popularity.

It is amazing how some important personalities from PML N appear to have been entrusted with issuing statements, the veracity of which is immediately compromised by live television footage. One of these exalted individuals accused PTI of initiating the stone throwing incident at Gujranwala and followed this up with a denial that his party workers had taken down and destroyed hoardings carrying Imran Khan’s photograph. All this was stated, while images contradicting him were being seen by the entire nation on television screens. Another statement issued by one member of the ‘inner circle’, to the effect that the PTI March had been a failure, made me wonder whether our ministers needed to have their eyes and brains examined. This phenomena of belying live footage is also prevalent amongst the ‘Inqilabis’ marching on Islamabad. When asked by a television reporter as to why their workers were carrying wooden staves spiked with nails and marbles to be used in slingshots, the PAT leadership denied that this was so. Regrettably, media footage indicated that the reporter’s question was based on fact.

As it is, the nation awaits the outcome of the two marches with bated breath and some vital questions. What if the event becomes a war of nerves, with all parties not budging from their stated positions? What if agents of an external enemy bent on destabilizing the country initiate violence that soon spirals out of control? What if anarchy erupts and the lives and property of citizens is threatened and what if our police, rangers and FC are unable to control the situation?

If the answers to these questions create a picture that spells destruction and bloodshed, then it is incumbent on the Government to immediately redress issues that form the root cause of agitation, even if it means a few resignations. On the other hand, the same picture should motivate the PTI and PAT leadership to bring some flexibility in their demands, which enables them to lead the process for radical electoral reforms and accountability laws designed to deter anyone, who tries to manipulate the process.

It would very unfortunate if the three political stakeholders, especially the Government, do not show sagacity during this crisis. It would be unfortunate because anarchy would create a situation wherein intervention by the judiciary and military would become inevitable, with nobody to blame except the politicians.

The writer is a freelance columnist.