The Chinese leader, Chairman Mao Tse-tung led his army of ninety thousand strong on a long march of over 9000 km, consistently attacked by the enemy; he reached his destination with only 7000 survivors, who went on to become national symbols of great courage, sacrifice and devotion. In present day Pakistan, Imran Khan has earned no such laurels to claim victory at Islamabad. In fact, due to shifting demands and with some unexpected decisions taken, he has made it clear that he may well lose the battle before it is joined.

Imran’s primary aim was to expose rigging in the elections by the Punjab Government. Nawaz Sharif agreed to the appointment of a Supreme Court commission to probe into the matter, but Imran declined and made fresh demands: that Nawaz Sharif must resign, and a technocratic government must be formed. These demands are undemocratic and unconstitutional while there is a sitting government supported by an elected parliament. The court order has warned Imran that the law of the country will not allow such a move, thus putting him on the back foot and liable for legal action.

On reaching Islamabad with about 30,000 or so followers, Imran demanded that if Nawaz Sharif didn’t immediately resign, there was a limit to the patience of his followers, and his “tsunami” might well sweep across the red zone and reach the Parliament House. This is an open threat. The government will counter it using the police and rangers, and if they fail, the army will be called in to restore the peace. That is what Imran Khan wants; to precipitate a situation where the army takes over as it has done in the past, ending in regime change. But the circumstances are now different. The Armys’ hands are full, dealing with the insurgency in the North Western Region and Baluchistan. Under article 245, it will respond to maintain law and order in Islamabad but nothing beyond it. The Army wants the courts, the government, Imran and Qadri to settle the matter between themselves as the Constitution demands.

Imran appears to have reached some agreement with Qadri, which is unwise because Qadri has no political standing, and not a single seat in Parliament. He is mainly an agitator supported by his madrassas. Whereas Imran is trying to enact the Ikhwan at Tahrir Square, which his party is not, it would do him well to remember that Nawaz Sharif is not Hosni Mubarak either. He has an elected parliament backing him up.

Imran made no arrangements at Islamabad for the sit-in by his crowd, which by now appears to be thirty to forty thousand strong and can hardly muster up to a hundred thousand or so, and no more. Bad weather and lack of arrangements will force Imran to seek a decision in a few days’ time, which makes his job all the more difficult and risky. Imran has made no efforts to protect his Tsunami manoeuvre from external threats. He is challenging the judiciary, the government, the Constitution, the media, the major political parties, and the weather, at the same time. This is a bad strategy; it seeks failure. However, there is a ray of hope for Imran because Nawaz Sharif has been seen at official functions, appearing as though he is in depression because of the harassing demands. That is the pressure point for Imran to focus on with his bouncers.

Qadri is in Pakistan with a job. And the job is to actualize the secular and non-secular conflict in Pakistan to their desired ends. Political Islam in Pakistan is not acceptable, as it was unacceptable in Bangladesh, Gaza, Algeria and Egypt. This may lead to a grim struggle; yet we can find an amicable solution only through the democratic process of elections, filtered through a fair, free and transparent electoral process demanded both by Imran and Qadri. And this seems to be taking place with the Supreme Court judicial enquiry commission to investigate and report on rigging in the 2013 elections. Hence, the urgent need to correct the electoral process, and the modalities ensuring inclusiveness and transparency.

 The writer is a former chief of army staff.