Having failed to send the government home through staging sit-ins in the capital, both PTI and PAT are now taking their show countrywide. After large PTI rallies in Lahore, Multan and Mianwali, Tahir-ul-Qadri and friends also held a successful gathering at Dhobi Ghaat, Faislabad. Initially, Qadri’s goal was clear: toppling the PML-N government. That is precisely what he had promised his supporters, convincing them to stay put in Islamabad until the task was completed. However, with each passing day, the possibility of the government leaving abruptly started to appear increasingly less. The government and the aspiring revolutionaries were stuck in a stalemate. Meanwhile, the number of people attending the sit-ins began to fall, slowly but consistently, and it had become clear that the ‘movement’ could not be sustained for too long. It needed a boost, a validation of sorts, and holding large rallies in Punjab ought to have presented itself as a viable option.

Everyone knows what Imran wants; the premiership. He is the chairman of a mainstream political party, which is leading a coalition government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Qadri, on the other hand, was completely averse to the idea of participating in elections until a few weeks ago. In Faisalabad, however, he was found revealing plans about taking part in all sorts of elections – local government, provincial and national. He predicts that the next general election will be held in six months, a year or later. That makes it a safe bet since it encompasses all periods of time. Does he actually plan to take part in elections despite all the reservations he has routinely expressed against the “rigged” system? His entire argument is based on the premise that meaningful change will not occur through what he has several times denounced as the futile exercise of elections, which do nothing to free the masses from the grip of the elite. Now, he is asking people to join his party, and vote for it in the next elections whenever they may be held. He has also announced plans to hold similar public gatherings in Lahore, Bhakkar, Sargodha and Mianwali. Are Qadri and friends sincere in taking the democratic path to power? Are they trying to make the best out of the situation they find themselves in? Is this an attempt to sustain pressure on the PML-N government? Or is Qadri still very much engaged in his pursuit for dead bodies, counting on the government to use force to contain his rallies? What is the end game here? It is difficult to say with certainty. In any case, the government would do well to keep its composure, and allow people to exercise their democratic right of assembly and participation in politics.