ISLAMABAD - The dastardly terrorist attack on Army School Peshawar on December 16 that killed 150 innocent souls has convulsed the nation. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which rules KP, had to bear the political brunt simply because of the fact that it rules the restive insurgency-ravaged province. In the aftermath of the attack, PTI chairman Imran Khan had to pack up his four-month protest, seeking to kick out Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from his office over allegations of massive rigging.

Bad luck to Imran Khan , the Peshawar tragedy, which turned out as a game changer in the war against terrorism and extremism in Pakistan, has also left PTI leadership in quandary.

Imran Khan’s protest movement launched on August 14 came to a grinding halt with removal of his special shipping container and part-time home at D-Chowk, Islamabad. The sudden and unexpected announcement to pack up the protest bags by Imran Khan brought an immediate sigh of relief for the ruling PML-N. Other political parties, including PPP also, expressed Schadenfreude over Khan’s retreat.

The PTI leadership seems indecisive about withdrawing resignations from the National Assembly at a time when moral and political compulsions force the party to stand with the nation against extremism and terrorism. Imran Khan will have to swallow the bitter pill and go back to the National Assembly to protect his vested political interest.

In the present situation, Imran Khan is left with only one option: to support the National Action Plan against extremism and terrorism. Going against the national mood can damage his political ambitions and political analysts believe putting the agitational mode on a brief hiatus would further raise Khan’s stature as a national leader.

For now, the major onus has shifted back to the ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and its allies. It needs to prioritise to redress key questions facing the nation in the wake of its greatest human tragedy.

The government would be in two minds right now. Some leading party members wonder whether it’s prudent to address the question of establishing a judicial commission as a priority. Going whole heartedly in implementing 20-point National Action Plan without being hampered by political considerations seems to be the need of the hour, they point out.

The government would need fair amount of time to do needful legislation to support the National Action Plan against extremism and terrorism. The government of Prime Minister Sharif would have decided setting up a judicial commission had its negotiations with the PTI concluded prior to the Peshawar tragedy. The lengthy talks between the two are still at an initial stage and any semblance of an agreement is likely to come a bit further down the road. So, considering the emergency with which the government has to do legislation to make the National Action Plan a workable proposition, it would remain priority number one rather than establishment of judicial commission to appease Imran Khan .

Leading political analysts and various members of National Assembly believe that Peshawar episode was blessing in disguise for Prime Minister Sharif, as it has given a new lease of life to his government. Background discussions with various parliamentary leaders in the National Assembly predicted that the turn of events has given at least two years of lease to Prime Minister Sharif and his ruling party.

Parliamentary leaders were of the view that Imran Khan’s option to resume his politics of protest against the government would not bear fruit as it is not Prime Minister Sharif and his government but the international community to watch Imran Khan’s commitment in implementation of National Action Plan.

The best course of action for Imran Khan would be to immediately return to the National Assembly to raise his voice against corruption, devote his energies on improving governance in KP and build his political bridges.

“Instead of beating the dead horse over the issue of rigging, Imran Khan should play role of a strong opposition,” says a senior parliamentary leader from the opposition benches. Imran Khan can play the role of a powerful opposition leader who can forcefully keep the government on the back-foot if his party acts as a bulwark against corruption.

A vigilant opposition can ensure that the mega-projects launched by the present government remain within the legal realms, free of any corruption. However, some MPs are not hopeful that Imran would take up the crusade against corruption as he remains convinced of his presumed victory in 2013 general elections. The lawmakers said they expect Imran Khan to be back on the streets to pick up on his broken thread of protest politics as soon as he can.