What goes around comes around. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) political party, which once held a months-long dharna to protest the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, and has often played the politics of protest to fulfil demands, is having to put up with other political parties’ protests now in its government’s time.

The question of importance is whether the opposition parties in PTI’s parliament have the street power and influence to pull crowds. Thursday’s mass protests, with rallies planned in Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Quetta and Islamabad, meant to mark 25th July as a “black day” due to the 2018 general elections which saw the victory of PTI. These protests, spearheaded by PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), already had the odds stacked against them, with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s return from the United States being a distraction, as well as little media coverage to the announcement of the protests. So with little chances of success, how did the “black day” protests fare?

With those odds, the protest rallies did quite well in Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta, with reportedly thousands coming out on the streets to join PML-N and JUI-F. While the rallies in other places, particularly Islamabad, may not have done so well, the aim of these protests was successful, which was to energise the opposition and build an anti-PTI momentum.

There are several takeaways from the protests. It should be conceded that Maryam Nawaz has the ability to draw crowds in for protests, where Shehbaz Sharif has previously failed. The economic hardships suffered by the country in the aftermath of the IMF bailout are also a factor for why people went out to protest to air their grievances against the government. Certainly, Maryam Nawaz’s emphatic speeches in Quetta, where she emphasised the financial missteps of the government, resonated with the supporters gathered, who have dealt with rising taxes and inflation in the past few months. Unfortunately, part of the anti-PTI sentiment in the protests on Thursday was also whipped up due to anti-Ahmadi fear-mongering on part of the JUI-F, an ugly and condemnable tactic, yet not surprising.

The protests on Thursday have emboldened the opposition. Taking advantage of the success of  “Black Day”, the opposition now seems set to move on to bigger targets- PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira has said that removal of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chief is the next target of the movement launched by the opposition. Let us see whether the opposition can build up their momentum, or if it will fizzle out before achieving any concrete demands.