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PML-N hell-bent on taking PTI lightly

* Govt quarters believe Imran’s urban crowd would get tired within 24 to 36 hours of sit-in


ISLAMABAD: The PML-N strategists have made up their mind to test the nerves of PTI urban crowd for a hindrance-free sit-in in Islamabad for a long haul of as many days as possible. Though the march leadership and their proponents would tend to think otherwise, the government quarters believe Imran Khan’s less field hardened, urban crowd comprising mostly youth, would get tired and bored within 24 to 36 hours of the sit-in despite all the political rhetoric and emotions being shown by his camp.   
Tactically, there is until date no fear in the minds of the government stalwarts that they would have to bank on the military establishment to have a final deal with Imran Khan’s PTI, though a facilitation of sort from the garrison is not being ruled out.    
Preliminary estimates, reports, assessments of the crowd that make up the two rallies (PTI and PAT) has so far convinced the key aides of the prime minister that the PTI leadership has not come prepared for a long stay in Islamabad, and Imran Khan would try to press hard for early acceptance of his demands through the “would be” mediators as soon as he delivers his key speech to the marchers in Islamabad on Friday. The government insiders believe that Imran Khan’s campaign is heavily based on an estimate of a similar long march the then PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif took out for the restoration of top judges. At that time, the PPP-led federal government had conceded to Sharif’s demands as soon as the mammoth crowd had reached Gujranwala. That deal was struck through intervention of the top general of that time. Can a mammoth crowd force the present government to repeat the past, even if it comes to PML-N’s red lines – resignation of the PM and mid-term elections – is a question the PM and his aides reject out rightly.     
The government high-ups think despite coming up with a well-orchestrated strategy of having a go at the Sharif-led government in the capital through two mass rallies at the same time, one following the other on the GT Road political base of the ruling PML-N, the inherent differences between PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri will be difficult to bridge. By allowing one stage to the two rallies in Islamabad, the government wants to fully exploit the widely believed personality clash between Imran and Qadri, with the former repeatedly calling the later as “anarchist” in close door gatherings. The presence of Chaudhrys of Gujrat in the Qadri camp will also be a dividing factor, as Imran’s PTI does not wish to carry them along even when the most important Sharif hater of the present times, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, is hell-bent on doing so.   
Till date, the government prepares to have political negotiations with the PTI and PAT would be ignored as it has no representation in parliament. Everybody in the power circles is sure Dr Qadri will definitely come up with a “pile” of “unreasonable demands” which will be action replay of his demands he came up in the last march during the PPP government. They feel Dr Qadri and his followers could go for some high-handed tactics as a last resort – a scenario that could alienate his party from political guarantors like MQM chief Altaf Hussain who has already given his word to the government on the peaceful conduct of the PAT. The other thing the government circles are however sure is “hidden connections” of sectarian religious cleric-turned-politician with the forces who want to disrupt the present democratic dispensation through unconstitutional means.     
Background consultations the prime minister and his close aides held on Wednesday and Thursday suggest that the PM and his team are confident the PTI leadership would have to disperse the crowd at a minimum acceptable “give and take” with the government, including 2013 election fraud investigations through the already proposed Supreme Court commission and a possible enactment of law that could send the current Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members packing, and come up with a new chief election commissioner and ECP members. The PM, his top aides, political allies, have however ruled out resignation of the PM and a mid-term election as being demanded by the PTI chief.  
The government is also planning to launch its full throttle political offensive and exploit all avenues of legal and moral arguments once the PTI and PAT marchers settle between Zero Point and Faizabad strip of Islamabad highway that connects Rawalpindi to Islamabad.  The government will use the good offices of its allies like Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Fazlur Rehman, Mir Hasil Khan Bazenjo, in and outside parliament, to launch a political attack on the march leaders. The PPP and MQM leadership will be asked to press the PTI and PAT to be politically reasonable. Then JI chief Sirajul Haq will be asked to convince Imran Khan to drop his unreasonable demands like resignation of the PM and start talks on a negotiated settlement.   Earlier, the MQM leadership played a pivotal role in convincing the federal and Punjab governments through the good offices of the Punjab governor to allow the PTI, and especially the PAT to take out a march towards Islamabad. The government circles believe the MQM will be a major bridging factor between marchers and PML-N dispensation.  

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