Mr Tahir-ul-Qadri might be wrong about everything else, but he was absolutely right in asking for an FIR to be registered against the accused of the Model Town incident, which left at least 14 PAT workers dead, and several injured. The PML-N remained insistent on defying both Session Court and Lahore High Court orders, until Thursday, when it finally gave in, hoping it would soften Mr Qadri’s stance, and buy the government some more time. It is truly unfortunate that the PML-N government tried to give the impression that it was making a huge concession for the sake of democracy, when in reality, all it has done is fulfil a legal obligation by ceasing to act as a hindrance. In any case, an FIR was finally registered in the Faisal Town Police Station against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and others including federal ministers and Police officials. Too little, too late. Mr Qadri rejected the FIR, and decided that the sit-in will not disperse without bringing the promised revolution. If Mr Qadri sought a face-saving, this FIR would have proven helpful.

However, if the plan is to bring down the entire system, or send Nawaz home, or to pave the way for other powers to take control of affairs, then there isn’t much that the Government could do at this stage to satisfy the fiery cleric. He took no time to reject the FIR. Now, what? Enter General Raheel Sharif. Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan announced that the government has requested the Chief of Army Staff to mediate between the parties. He obliged. This must be viewed as a serious setback for democracy in Pakistan. Calling in the COAS to mediate is akin to conceding that the elected government has failed to solve the crisis on its own. On General Raheel Sharif’s guarantee, both Imran and Qadri have agreed to ‘hold back’ for another 24 hours. At least, unsurprisingly, there is someone in Pakistan these revolutionaries listen to. The fact that the COAS has agreed to mediate tells us that the military is confident about what it wants from this, and how to achieve it. They might be the only ones. We cannot state with certainty how things will unfold from here onwards. Is there a package that the COAS has to offer? How will that ‘package’ address the issues raised by both PTI and PAT? What consequences will it entail for Nawaz, and democracy in Pakistan? And are we experiencing the climax of a soft coup? If we are, it has been sophisticatedly and cunningly executed. Bravo. And God help us.