What will happen on 14th August?
Democracy. Martial Law. Qadri. Electoral fraud. Azadi March. Khan. Article 245. Mid-term polls.
The political air is brimming with these words; be it any television talk show, communal gathering, or social media. People are contemplating about what might or might not happen on this 14th. Imran Khan has been successful in building a momentum for a decisive anti-government protest. Secondly, reports till now shows that Tahir-ul-Qadri has come to terms with Imran Khan, and would be joining hands with him either directly or indirectly. There is no doubt that he (or they) would be able to bring a huge number from all over Pakistan to Islamabad in order to show the power of anti-government stance. Government is trying to impose Article 245 which calls for the intervention of army ‘to aid’ the civil government. What might unfold on 14th and the days to follow is difficult to predetermine. However, we can develop different likely scenarios and then analyze their repercussions.
1- A protest similar to previous jalsas/dharnas
It can turn out that Imran Khan and other likeminded leaders gather protesters in Islamabad and sits there for a couple of days making fiery speeches against the government, and then reach some implicit settlement with the sitting government in a manner similar to what Qadri did last year.
This is what the PML-N led government would want for sure as it would be a win-win situation for them. They would be applauded for allowing a democratic protest and then settling it within constitutional perimeters.
However, the result of such a scenario would not be less than a disaster for Imran, as his political career would virtually come to an end. Backing off after creating such hype would make this apparent to the public and his supporters that he (and his endless jalsas, TV interviews and social media genie) can create no tangible impact. Remember that Qadri lost considerable support from the saner segment of society after he backed off after creating a mayhem last January. However, the elasticity would be much greater this time if Khan does the same.
2- Prime Minister calls for mid-term polls
According to the constitution, only the premier can decide to go for mid-term polls. The government can announce after being pressurized from the sea of protesters that there is no other option than to dissolve its government. Nawaz Sharif may ask his parliamentarians to resign from National Assembly and then form a caretaker government in consultation with the protesting parties.
If such a situation emerges, simply going for polls again would not get Imran Khan what he wants – electoral reforms. An election similar to the last one may be held which may result in similar outcomes. How the electoral reforms may be held is a difficult question – Qadri and Khan would both be key players in deciding what happens next.
Another seemingly unfortunate outcome of such a situation would be the power struggle between the key opposition leaders, namely Qadri and Khan. Their demands are synchronized presently because they both want the removal of current government, which has allegedly been formed on false mandate. Once this first stage is achieved, there would be a power vacuum which has to be taken by one of them.
3- Army intervenes
The civil government has already called the army to assist the administration in lieu of the possible reaction from the military operation going on in North Waziristan. In case the situation becomes so tense that civilian leadership fails to handle it effectively, military leadership may once again try to repeat its oft-repeated history. However, such a situation would be disastrous for both Khan and Qadri. If the army decides to get the scar of humiliation of removing an (elected) government, then it would not want the fruits to be eaten by someone else, be it Qadri or Khan. We have the example of post 1977 election, where army was called by Z.A. Bhutto to stop the PNA protesters; instead this tactic backfired and army decided to jump in the boat and sit there for a full decade.