Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Shareef at Prime Minister House, Islamabad, on Tuesday. The short statement released by the PM House after the meeting stated that “there was a consensus on the need to resolve the ongoing issue expeditiously in the best national interest.” We cannot be sure whether that was indeed the decision reached by the end of the meeting, but it is clear that the ongoing political crisis was in fact discussed between the two. There is a strong impression that the military has been playing a rather active role in the challenges faced by the Nawaz government in Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri. The close co-ordination between the two ‘movements’ serves to endorse the view. While the military may not be willing to directly intervene and take over as it has done repeatedly in the past, it appears to be setting the ground for a soft coup. We saw the model work, and work quite well, during the last Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government. Behind the scenes, the military continued to call the shots on almost all issues pertaining to national security and foreign policy while the PPP government’s role had been limited to approving everything that was proposed. The ongoing political turmoil, if nothing more, is expected to achieve the same result.

The marchers were allowed to enter the Red Zone on the military’s guarantee. The buildings, including the PM House, are currently being guarded by soldiers. The statement released by the ISPR had made this much clear to the participants of the sit-ins, and had ‘advised’ all “stakeholders” to resolve the issue peacefully. Look at the broader picture, and you will find that not Nawaz, not Qadri and not even Imran, hold the ultimate power to decide the fate of these ‘movements’. With the Lahore High Court’s decision directing the Police to register an FIR against the 22 accused persons in the Model Town incident case, including both Sharif brothers, problems for the PML-N government are increasing despite the weak participation in PTI and PAT sit-ins. However, most political parties, the civil society and the superior judiciary are so far standing behind the democratic government. Key international players, such as the US and the UK, have also issued statements in support of democracy, which is euphemism for Nawaz Sharif in this case. That being said, is there a button which turns it all off? Will Nawaz Sharif surrender his mandate for political survival?