Will, or can, the people and parties standing for radical change coalesce and still raise a storm in the coming general election has become a hot topic in the political circles after the Supreme Court brought the fiery Dr Tahirul Qadri's political barnstorming season to an end by rejecting his petition for a new Election Commission.
Recent opinion polls show the Tehrik-i-Insaf, the standard-bearer and hope of change, had consistently been losing popularity to its main rival the PML-N -- certainly a bad sign for the PTI.
Whatever may be behind its dropping political stock, immaturity or inexperience, the worrisome development seems to have forced a rethink in the PTI leadership about the other proponent of even a more radical change, Dr Tahirul Qadri of the million march fame.
A week before the Supreme Court dismissed Dr Qadri's plea as untenable, a PTI delegation, with party stalwarts Makhdoom Javed Hashmi and Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the lead, held talks with Dr Tahirul Qadri at his Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) headquarters which caught much media attention. The purpose of the talks, as explained by the two sides at a press conference later, was to bring together all like-minded political forces for a positive political change in the country.
Leaders of both sides said they had joined hands for a powerful election commission so that the country could have free and fair general elections.
They denied the meeting was to form an electoral alliance between them, but admitted that they did exchange views on their future political strategy.
They didn’t reveal their strategies, though. When media persons persisted with their questions, Javed Hashmi just let out that the PTI had started a process of bringing together all ‘pro-change’ forces.
That sounded as an afterthought to many in the political circles since the PTI leadership had rejected Dr Qadri's repeated - later even desperate - calls to the party to join his remarkable long march on Islamabad in mid-January. Throughout the long-march, and his four-day sit-in in Islamabad, Dr Qadri kept on inviting Imran Khan to strengthen his hands as he believed they both shared the cause of ridding the country's politics of corrupt politicians.
But the PTI leadership showed no enthusiasm for Qadri's way of bring about revolution. It did, however, endorse the declaration that Dr Qadri won from the ruling coalition which called for electoral reforms prior to next general elections.
Deeper investigations revealed that Javed Hashmi and a majority of the PTI leaders were in favour of joining Dr Qadri's long march but Imran Khan and few others successfully opposed it.
Political commentators generally commended latter's decision as they said a negative outcome of the strong-arm tactics of Dr Qadri would have hurt Imran Khan and his party alike.
In a way the commentators proved right because the government did not keep its agreement with Dr Qadri to give legal cover to their Islamabad Declaration and announce the dissolution of the National Assembly by the end of January.
It was after his triumph at Islamabad turned sour that Dr Qadri moved the Supreme Court - only to lose more face.
Why Imran Khan sent Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Javed Hashmi to Dr Qadri for talks when his decision to stay away from the religious leader's long march politics had proven right is baffling to many in his party and outside.
According to PTI sources, Mr Hashmi had been insisting that since both wanted change in the country, links with Dr Qadri's TMQ will benefit the PTI politically. He believed that having declared not to align with any political party now in power at the centre and in the provinces, the PTI should still seek broader strength and that Dr Qadri's followers spread all over the country can provide that strength.
A party insider said that during a recent party meeting Mr Hashmi strongly pleaded for courting Dr Qadri as an electoral ally and using his broad-based support to the benefit of the PTI. Imran Khan allowed him to meet the TMQ chief but did not favour a political alliance with Dr Qadri, the insider said.
A long-time friend of Mr Hashmi, from the days when both were in the PML-N, said the Multan-based politician was known for his rebellious nature.
“It is just the beginning (for him in the PTI). In the coming days Imran Khan and company will have to hear and bear much more his stubbornness,” he said, recalling that Mr Hashmi's outbursts at the PML-N meetings used to be “a routine”. A right winger throughout his political career, Mr Hashmi is said to be in the habit of going off the tangent and then insisting on his argument.
“I am really not surprised that he forced the PTI leadership to the meeting with Dr Qadri,” said his PML-N friend. “Since we (the PML-N) are the main target of the PTI and Dr Qadri both, I feel Hashmi must have pushed the leadership of his new party to the meeting.”