The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government has no shortage of opponents, and now another one has entered the ring. Days after Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) announced a second round of anti-government protests the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) has declared that they too will take to the streets across the country to protest the “anti-people” policies of the ruling party. While the PTI can take some solace in the fact that both these protest are independent of each other and can potentially be handled as isolated incidents, the situation can change at any moment, especially considering that the reason for both protests is the same – a mismanaged, inflationary economy.

Rising inflation, a freefalling exchange rate, reduced development spending, and increasing unemployment had been steadily building resentment among the public; the wheat and sugar crisis seems to have solidified this diffused anger into a solid reactionary intent. Frequent Cabinet reshuffles, ministerial scandals and gross incompetent at several important executive junctions exacerbate the discontent. When this is coupled with the idyllic and exaggerated pre-election promises it makes a perfect recipe for mass revolt.

It is telling that both the JI and the JUI-F have based their protests on these exact concerns. Despite being religious parties, conservatism has played a minor role in their criticism of the government. This makes their protest far more dangerous – they are propagating the complaints of the people and not their own narrow interpretations. Instead of dismissing or threatening these protests, the PTI should pay serious attention to them.

If the two parties decide to pool their manpower and resources they can present a stiff challenge for the government. Disciplined religious cadres and a nationwide support are difficult to counter, as the previous government discovered. The PTI should hope that the larger opposition parties stay out of this conflict one again.