On Friday, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan announced the federal government’s decision to request deployment of troops in Islamabad for a period of three months beginning from 1st August, 2014. Article 245 of the constitution allows an elected government to request military assistance for maintenance of law and order. The general impression was that the government would impose Article 245 in all major cities, but interestingly, it has done so only in the capital. Security concerns alone do not suffice as a satisfactory explanation for the government’s decision. That is not to say that they have no part in all of this. Indeed, the cities are facing serious threats since the commencement of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, though so far there has not been urban backlash of the scale expected. It is no secret that civilian law enforcement agencies remain incapable of protecting cities against retaliation from terrorists if it was to occur. So, the familiar “call in the army” option must have presented itself as the ever-viable option. But there is no rule against killing two birds with one stone. And that may just be what the PML-N government is going for here.

Other than national security, there is the issue of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s insecurity which is not entirely unfounded considering that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is gearing up to march on the capital on 14th August. Ever fond of cricket analogies, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has said that the Azadi march will be more like a test match affair rather than a swift 20-20 contest. Other than public support, what does one need to topple or at least shake the sitting government in Pakistan? The military’s consent, of course. With civil-military relations still tense, the government fears that the PTI may be used as a leverage tool by the powers that be. Now, once troops have been deployed in Islamabad, it is hard to imagine Imran Khan threatening to personally hang them as he promised to do with police personnel. Firstly, the PTI will be far less tempted to wreak havoc in Islamabad. If it chooses to stay put, it will prefer to remain peaceful. Secondly, if the PTI does create a law and order situation, the military will be responsible for dealing with it. Any confrontation between the two will make both look bad, and the PML-N wouldn't mind that so much. The government has appointed the ultimate babysitter to do its job for it, and it is counting on it to prevent the house from crashing down. If anything, it makes it more difficult for anti-democracy forces to embark on an unnecessary adventure. For now, the government appears willing to surrender some space to remain in power. However, Independence Day is still a little more than two weeks away. A lot can change between now and then.