"Popular applause veers with the wind." John Bright The coming week will see two political parties trying to prove their popular standing with the people of Lahore. While Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan may be a minnow as compared with the established political party, Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N), headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif, it will try to win the battle in Lahore. Both the parties have announced an identical programme to attract peoples attention. According to some analysts, the PML-N may have climbed down from a higher pedestal by announcing to hold a rally on October 28 to pre-empt the impact of public gathering proclaimed by Imran. There is no doubt that issues like loadshedding, unemployment, and rising prices, have affected a majority of the people in Pakistan; the time is ripe to elicit their response on these issues. However, the PML-N will definitely have an edge over PTI not only because of its vast experience, but also as it has a formidable political machine that is working in Lahore. This does not mean that the two political events will have no bearing on the political scenario in future. In case Imran wins the battle of numbers, many politicians may join his party that, in turn, could create a snowball effect. And if this happens, then PTIs chances of emerging as a political force cannot be ruled out. Therefore, by calling a rally two days before its public gathering, the PML-N may have taken an unnecessary political risk for which it may regret later on. Nevertheless, those who are predicting Imrans rise in politics like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto are, perhaps, jumping to conclusions; this being mainly due to the vast difference between Bhuttos charismatic appeal and the rest of the political leadership of the country. So, I believe that the PML-N has prematurely reacted to Imrans rising popularity. On the other hand, the alliance between the PPP, PML-Q, MQM, and ANP creates an image of a divided opposition that may not be able to mount a serious challenge to the PPP whose performance has, unfortunately, been sketchy throughout he past three years. But this does not mean that Nawaz or Imran are not aware of it; and may ultimately end up joining hands, along with other parties, to mount a formidable challenge to the ruling coalition in the next elections. At present, all the parties would try to carve out maximum place for themselves by bringing the winning candidates into their fold and exploiting the governments weaknesses so that they are able to win concessions for themselves. Side by side, PML-Qs like-minded group that has till now supported PML-Ns political moves is also divided with some of its members leaning towards PTI. So, if Imran is able to prove that his public meeting is a success in Lahore, on October 30, he stands to gain and may hit a political jackpot sooner than expected. However, some of PTIs critics are rightly saying that it does not have support in the rural areas of Punjab and even if it succeeds in a few constituencies, it will not be of any significant political consequence for the PML-N. Others believe that PTI will have an impact on the voting patterns in the urban areas as well as some rural constituencies. It seems that PTI will not only play a spoilers role for the PML-N, but also pull out voters who have up till now voted for the PPP and other groups. Anyway, the two events to be held in Lahore are bound to affect the PPP at the federal and provincial levels. The party cadres have already been instructed to organise themselves and start preparing for the 2013 elections. Against this backdrop, the PPP will try to resolve the issues that are faced by the people and some significant progress is expected not only in the management of loadshedding, but also streamlining of other vital State organisations like the Railways, PIA, Pakistan Steel, etc. The question is: Whether the people opt for political stability or go for the other options, which is to vote into power those elements who have not been tested before. Most political observers would place their bets on another coalition setup keeping in view the present status of various political parties in the country. This would mean another weak government. However, if social unrest increases before the elections, the danger of anti-democratic forces creeping back into power cannot be ruled out. This is a situation that the politicians must avoid and to do that they will have to devote their energies to strengthen democracy because that remains the best bet for the people, economy, and Pakistan. The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television. Email: zarnatta@hotmail.com