LAHORE - The war of words between PML-N and PTI is intensifying as November 2 date for Islamabad lockdown is drawing nearer.

Both the sides have made preparations visualising November 2 a defining moment from their own angles of looking at things. The PTI believes the day will bring the Nawaz government down while the ruling party predicts it is an end to Imran Khan’s politics. Stakes are becoming high on both sides with the passage of time. The prime minister, answering a reporter’s question in London on Imran Khan’s Islamabad show a few days back, had said they didn’t have time to waste on such matters. But now a full-fledged campaign has been kick-started by the government to foil the PTI show. Besides verbally countering the opposite side, the PML-N has also embarked upon the contact drive with the political parties, particularly the PPP which is reluctant to join the PTI in Islamabad, yet the balance is likely to be tilted in favour of PTI if it decides to go against the government. It is good for the PML-N as PAT, JI and other parties have refused to join the PTI. Taking advantage of this scenario, the PML-N is openly blaming the PTI for planning bloodshed in Islamabad through the Haqqani madrassa students who allegedly received a heavy grant from the KP government in the last budget are joining the protest. The PTI defends its position on this score, saying their call to participate in Islamabad protest is to everyone, so they cannot restrain anyone from joining them in the capital shutdown.

The PTI wants to shut down the federal capital to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down or face the law for the alleged corruption about the establishment of offshore companies of his children who have been named in the Panama leaks. The PML-N men, on the other side, have put their foot down to resist every move from the PTI that would aim at closing down Islamabad. Both the sides are striving to overpower each other through verbal war for the purpose of tilting the public opinion in their favour on which PTI’s make-or-break show largely depends.

In TV talk shows, media talks and press conferences, politicians on both the sides are strongly criticising and hurling severe allegations against each other. In this spate of hostility, some of them appeared to have crossed all limits of decency a glimpse of which was also seen in the Punjab Assembly on Thursday last when the opposition leader passed such remarks as had be expunged from the record of proceedings.

The ruling side is not only running apace but also surpassed PTI on some occasions. Punjab Law Rana Sanaullah, Khawaja Asif, Abid Sher Ali, Daniyal Aziz, Pervaiz Rashid, Talal Ch and others have all directed their guns to Imran Khan and his party.

Amid this situation, the Supreme Court’s notices to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his other family members have emerged as a tool which both sides are using against each other. Interpreting the SC notices to their advantage, both sides have renewed their spirit to rationalise their stance against each other. The ruling side is snubbing Imran Khan on his insistence for Islamabad closure after the PM has accepted the authority of law on the Panama issue. Imran Khan, on the other hand, is committed to going ahead with his Islamabad lockdown mission, at the same time terming the SC notice legitimacy of his stance. Khan has largely broadened the cause of his November 2 show as with the demand for Panama inquiry he has referred to corruption everywhere in the government, favouritism, Sharifs’ hostile outlook towards the Army, their friendship with India and the PM’s emperor-like attitude as part of his charge sheet against the PML-N. The ruling ministers, in reaction to it, are openly using the obnoxious remarks which they had attributed to Imran Khan in the past. The response from the other side is also not less lethal.

The PML-N, in trying to take wind out of the PTI’s sails of Islamabad show, is terming it a conspiracy against the CPEC and an attempt to hamper the wheel of progress in the country. Imran Khan has countered this impression by holding a meeting with the Chinese envoy to Pakistan.

The ruling party has offered Imran Khan to stage the show in Islamabad provided the city is not sealed, it remains peaceful, time-bound and within the legal premises. The PTI has rejected this offer. Under the overall situation, varied thoughts are striking the layman as both the sides are claiming their efforts are for the masses’ betterment, but they are quite tense at the moment.

A person in a street, interacting with this scribe, expressed apprehension about an unpleasant situation owing to the way both the sides are getting ready for a showdown. And what will be the result of it is anybody’s guess.