The gauntlet has been thrown, the ultimatum set; Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s biggest test of the term is before it. Yet at such a crucial juncture, where parties and politicians have been forced to choose between black and white, the two main opposition parties are still twisting and contorting to stay within the gray area.

One would have expected both Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) to wholeheartedly support an effort to topple the government. They have been pushed back politically, their leaders caught in a relentless legal hunt, and their opinions culled before they reach the public. However, when asked to back the march with full force both parties announced they would not become a part of the sit-in, leaving Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman alone to hold the fort.

But this refusal to join the protest doesn’t stem from any ideological difference; leaders from both parties took to the stage with the Maulana and launched into ferocious diatribes against the government. They too want the government gone and support the marchers – then why not act on those intentions?

It seems that even to the end, both parties have one eye on what they have to loose. They are more than willing to utilize the platform created by JUI-F to put pressure on the government, but equally cautious of the consequences should this Dharna follow the same pattern as the last two. Perhaps with key politicians under investigation and more on the dock, the combined opposition prefers to play it safe.

This is certainly a valid stance to take, but the lukewarm support has sapped the impact of the protest and muddied the narrative that was supposed to echo across the nation. If all the opposition parties are not on the same page, why should the nation unite behind them?

This caution perhaps may be what dooms the Dharna before it begins – and it seems PPP and PML-N are comfortable with that fact.