Why it ended so abruptly
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan's surprise decision about not going ahead with the sit-in at the end of the long march left almost everyone baffled — foes and allies alike — but there is convergence on one thing — the manner in which it all ended, at least for now, carried clear indications of who made it happen.
The government had attempted to prevent the convoy from reaching the capital by shutting down all entry and exit points around the city, but was forced to allow in protesters by an emergency Supreme Court order.
Since being removed from power through a no-confidence vote last month, cricket star turned politician Khan has heaped pressure on the country's fragile new coalition rulers by staging rallies, touting a claim he was ousted from office in a "foreign conspiracy".
The general perception, though most shy away from saying that openly, is that the military had to ultimately play its role to prevent things from getting out of control.
Pakistan's former National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Naeem Khalid Lodhi candidly admits that he too agrees with this. "There is a strong possibility of positive interference by the military to prevent chaos and seek a return of semblance of political stability so that the process for resuscitating the economy could begin."
Another retired general, on the condition of anonymity, said there was a realisation in the top brass that no one at the helm of affairs would be able to escape responsibility if matters were to go in a wrong direction.
The biggest challenge for the military, a source claimed, was to open up communication channels with Imran Khan, especially in view of their frayed relations. But, as the former prime minister proceeded with the long march plans, a sense of urgency was felt everywhere and multiple channels were employed to bring him around.
The source said those who acted as a go-between included a former chief justice, a leading businessman, and a retired general.
"It was not an easy task given Khan's obstinacy and the fact that he had invested a lot of effort into it," the source privy to the negotiations said.
Khan agreed to go back, without staging the planned sit-in, on the assurance that the date for the dissolution of the assemblies and elections would be given in June. He too in his speech, in which he announced the end of the long march, had said: "I'm giving you six days. Announce elections within six days, announce elections in the month of June …"
Khan was also asked to consider the return of PTI to the National Assembly by withdrawing the resignations of his party's legislators so that it could be part of the consultations on the interim setup — as per the Constitution — under whose watch next elections will be held.
The PTI chief, it is said, held on to the opportunity seeing that he was not able to pull out the numbers that he had expected, especially from Punjab — the government's crackdown notwithstanding.