With the PTI and its mercurial leader Imran Khan determined to lockdown Islamabad on November 2 and the ruling PML-N even more determined not to let that happen, the chips are down and all bets on the outcome are off.
But old hands say there is never a last word in politics - even when the situation looks tense, scary and fraught with danger for all.
Already, other anti-Nawaz Sharif players in the game, like the PPP and Jamaat-i-Islami, have been urging the warring sides to negotiate a sensible solution – fearing a confrontation between the two may render them irrelevant in the political scene.
What is the final outcome the PTI leadership has in mind? Political analysts are asking whether Mr Khan and company have done some war gaming about possible counter moves PML-N and its coalition partners can resort to with the state’s coercive power at its beck and call? Has the PTI even set a minimum goal?
When Dawn put the same questions to PTI leader Asad Umar, he offered simple answers, though he had been thick in planning the siege of the federal capital. It is meant to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to either resign over Panama Papers leaks, which mention his family, or agree to the terms of reference (ToR) that the parliamentary opposition has proposed for the commission that the prime minister had announced to probe all Pakistanis mentioned in the Panama Papers.
“It’s not a matter of a certain number of objectives that our party aims to achieve and then sit back. Once again I am clarifying, as the PTI chairman has done on many occasions, we are not here to wrap up the system but are pushing for the accountability of the rulers,” said Mr Umar, who represents Islamabad in the National Assembly.
To him, it is a watershed moment in the country’s political history, particularly for those parliamentary parties who are staying away from extreme protest. PTI’s rank and file stand fully determined behind their chairman to achieve the objectives of its accountability movement, come what may.
“No ifs and buts,” he asserted.
However, another PTI leader confided on the condition of anonymity that “first, we have no illusions that we will be able to lockdown the city completely. We are expecting huge crowd, though.”
Asked if he thought the crowd would thin as the lockdown prolongs, he said the party leadership was hopeful of a successful show. But, as an alternate strategy, other cities of the country could also be locked down.
In his view, it wouldn’t be easy for the government to just ignore the PTI protest. What was stopping the prime minister to present details of his family’s properties in London, and other business, he asked, suggesting he can put someone like his nephew Hamza Shehbaz Sharif or Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in his place.
“If the government is hell bent upon confrontation, the PTI is fully ready,” the doubting PTI leader added.
There are others in the PTI who hope that better sense would prevail on the government side.
A party office-bearer said that the PTI was only asking for investigating a piece of evidence which the ruling elite itself had accepted. More importantly, all other opposition political parties held the same opinion.
Admitting that PTI suffered huge set back following the election inquiry commission report, he said at least the issue was resolved. Now, he pins hope for a positive outcome on the Supreme Court’s hearing on the so-called Panamagate scandal.
“By announcing lockdown of the capital city, the PTI has taken a huge gamble which can have serious ramifications for the party in times to come, a view which has been duly voiced within senior party circles,” said the party office-bearer.
If the Supreme Court dashes that hope, then the party leadership feels the PML-N juggernaut would become unstoppable.
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2016