From the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahir ul Qadri’s changed tone and lack of aggression during the last few weeks or so of the inqilabi dharna, it was apparent that something unusual was cooking up. As his charged followers prepared for their 68th day in D- square, their leader gave sudden orders to pack up and go home.

The level to which Dr Qadri had raised his followers’ expectations was visible from the emotions of the shocked supporters as they left D square. While men seemed visibly upset and dejected, many women cried and gave solace to their companions. Those were certainly not victory hugs.

Shocked Pakistanis continue to ask why Dr Qadri called off the D square dharna. Did he strike a secret deal with the government? What was the quid pro quo for lifting the dangling sword from the Sharifs? Has the Model Town cause been compromised? Will the inqilabis’ sacrifices go in vain?

It is true that PAT’s sit in had reached a stalemate during the second half of its marathon dharna. Except for its partial success in forcing the Punjab Government to register the FIR, there was little progress towards achieving other immediate objectives related to the Model Town massacre.

The Punjab Chief Minister resisted calls for his resignation not only on moral grounds but also defied the findings of the Judicial Commission report that reportedly held Punjab’s top leadership responsible for the Model Town tragedy. Although leaked by a TV channel, the Punjab Government ensured that the report was not made public.

Even after almost four months of the Model Town massacre, the Punjab Government did not constitute a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) for fair and transparent investigations under a neutral and well reputed senior police officer as demanded by PAT to meet the ends of justice.

It is also a fact that PAT’s full time dharna, though much better organized/ disciplined vis a vis PTI’s part time sit in, was plagued by severe sanitation/ hygiene and waste/garbage disposal issues that led to health problems. Even Dr. Qadri suffered from bouts of sickness while confined to his container. There were reports of financial constraints too, in providing free meals to the thousands of dharna participants.

A change of strategy was required to infuse new life into the inqilabi movement and generate renewed pressure on the government to accept PAT’s demands as far as possible. But the anti climax of the sit-in not only provided much required relief to both the federal and Punjab governments, but also raised valid suspicions and doubts.

Dr. Qadri should have sent back the thousands of old men, women and children who braved extreme weather and the inhospitable environment for weeks. Had he emulated Imran Khan’s strategy of reinforcing the dharna with a countrywide campaign, he would have been in a strong negotiating position to press for the acceptance of his demands.

By doing so, Dr. Qadri would not have faced intense ridicule and taunts from the civil society as well as friendly media channels which sincerely supported the Model Town cause and the ten point inqilabi reforms agenda.

We must believe Dr Qadri when he vehemently dismissed rumors of any financial deal with the government with respect to families of the Model Town shuhada. The nation, which to date remains emotionally involved in supporting the Model Town cause, would feel betrayed if Dr Qadri gave up on his repeated vows of ‘Qisas’ for the victims of this tragedy.

Regardless, some behind the scenes understanding with the government cannot be ruled out. That some kind of compromise was achieved for ending PAT’s dharna is evident from the suddenly friendly PML-N statements, including Punjab’s former law minister, who was sacked from his post and remains a key accused in the Model Town FIR.

And here lies the catch. If the Punjab government goes slow and lets the forty odd FIRs against the PAT leadership die their natural death, will PAT reciprocate the same in the case of Model Town FIR, particularly against the top PML-N leaders nominated therein?

One also cannot rule out the back channel international factor in the whole affair. Remember Dr Qadri is also a Canadian citizen. Did the Punjab Governor also play his part in this new London plan?

I will quote an excerpt from the October 2nd remarks on Facebook by a leading, credible and well informed Pakistani journalist based, for the last few months, in London.

He states, “Rumour has it that Mian Nawaz Sharif has met a leading British politician during his latest trip to the UK, and agreed to dramatic political changes in Pakistan provided he and his family are assured of continued participation in Pakistani politics, all murder cases currently instituted against him and his family are taken care off while he is still in power and the relations of those killed in the Model Town tragedy are compensated according to the Islamic tenets of Diyat.”

If at any later stage, details of such an agreement surface as happened in the case of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (who repeatedly denied any secret deal with General Musharraf in ten years of exile in Saudi Arabia), Dr Qadri’s credibility and image would stand tarnished. He would also lose the media’s trust and support in any future political campaign.

Will Imran Khan provide a replay of Dr Qadri’s unceremonious exit from D square? Those who thought that Qadri’s departure would pull the rug from beneath his political cousin Imran Khan, are taken aback with the ever increasing response and participation in Khan’s daily evening protest gatherings. With his dharna having crossed the 75 day milestone, all eyes are set on Khan’s November 30th mega event in D square.

n    The writer is a retired brigadier and a political/defence analyst and columnist.