LAHORE - The political situation in the country has entered a decisive phase with Dr Tahirul Qadri reaching the federal capital along with a large number of his supporters and insisting that he will not go back unless all his demands are met and is given ‘institutional’ guarantees for the implementation of whatever is agreed upon.So important are the demands to him that he is ready to sacrifice even his life. A number of his followers, interviewed by the electronic media, have also expressed similar views. This will bring the government under pressure to act or the situation may take an ugly turn. Though the demands are absolutely fair and enjoy people’s support, their acceptance by the government will mean violating the very same constitutional provisions which the incumbent parliamentarians had incorporated very proudly.For example, the demand is the army and the judiciary should also have a meaningful say in the selection of the caretaker government. But under the 20th Amendment, it is for the prime minister and the opposition leader in the National Assembly to take a decision on who should be the caretaker premier. And in case they fail to reach consensus, a parliamentary committee has to take the decision. And if even this committee is unable to choose a caretaker premier, the matter will go to the chief election commissioner whose decision will be final. The amendment gives no role either to the army or the judiciary.The second part of the demand that the caretaker setup should be installed immediately will shatter the dreams of the government which was planning to cling to power by whatever means till March 16. This demand can be met only by the prime minister. He alone is empowered to advise the president to dissolve the National Assembly to pave the way for a caretaker setup. And extending such an advice means that the prime minister will sign his own ‘death warrants’.This problem will also trickle down to the provincial level where the chief minister’s advice is the only way to have the assemblies dissolved. Hypothetically speaking, no one knows what will happen if the chief minister of a province, say, Punjab, refuses to give such advice to the governor. The Punjab chief minister had said recently in an interview to this newspaper that his term would expire by the middle of April and he would like to stay in power till then. He will change his mind only if his party directs him to do so.In case the National Assembly is dissolved on the prime minister’s advice or a provincial legislature on the advice of a chief minister, the elections will become inevitable in 90 days. But if the assembly ceases to exist on completing its mandated five-year term, the elections should be held in 60 days.As for strict adherence to articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution for the scrutiny of the election candidates, the matter falls under the jurisdiction of the Election Commission of Pakistan. And Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim will certainly enforce these provisions in letter and spirit.A crisis-like situation could have been averted by the government by holding serious talks with Dr Qadri before the launch of the long march. The government did start the process by sending Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Husain, but the unexpected and uncalled for presence of Malik Riaz as part of the ‘official’ delegation annoyed the Tehrik-e-Minhajul Quran chairman. DR Qadri had to be discourteous to Malik and ask him to leave. The subsequent talks, held in the absence of the property tycoon, remained inconclusive as the deputy prime minister said all issues could not be resolved overnight. Such a statement just a day before the start of the long march clearly meant that before conceding anything the government wanted the TMQ chairman to show his public support which he did. Although Interior Minister Rehman Malik says the long march has failed as Dr Qadri could not bring more than 20,000 people to the federal capital, the gathering is much more than the earlier expectations and assessments. The government will be under pressure to take measures to avert any untoward situation.In case the government doesn’t budge, its allies may create a situation making it impossible for the PPP to stay in power. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, in spite of not taking part in the long march, fully supports the demands of the TMQ chairman. Likewise, the PML-Q also supports the demands, although it is not throwing its weight behind Dr Qadri and is going by the ‘wait and see’ policy.In case the two parties decide to withdraw their support for whatever reasons, the PPP will lose its majority in the National Assembly and will be bound to collapse.In such a situation the role of the defenders of Pakistan becomes very crucial. They are already facing a difficult situation because of the escalating tension on the eastern border and continuous provocations from the western border. The people want a change, but the army is caught in a difficult situation. Let’s see who gives in, Dr Qadri or the government?