ISLAMABAD   -   The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been expressing fears for the last couple of days that the ruling coalition in the centre may use force against its workers and leadership ahead of its much-awaited long march to block the former’s move to gather its “large number” of supporters in Islamabad.

The country’s major opposition party has shown its worries at a time when a day earlier, rumours were rife in the capital that the federal government may place ex-premier and Chairman PTI Imran Khan under house arrest on the excuse of maintenance of public order.

Last Thursday, Secretary General PTI Asad Umar had warned the government of dire consequences if it tried to “use to force” to stop Khan from coming out onto the streets. He also said that the option of use of force was being discussed at different levels of the government.

As a pre-emptive measure, the opposition party has brought a few hundred of its supporters from different parts of the country to be camped outside the residence of Khan in Bani Gala. The idea is that these supporters would work as a human shield for the party leader if the government ordered to arrest Khan while using the law enforcement.

In April, Khan had announced to hold an anti-government march to Islamabad in the last week of this month to force the government to announce early election after he was voted out of the office of prime minister. Despite reservations expressed by PTI about any kind of action against its workers and supporters before the protest march, it will not be any easy decision for the ruling coalition led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to order a crackdown because the country has already been plunged into political and economic crises.

The central government represented by a large number of seasoned politicians would have some clue that any such move can be counterproductive at a time when Khan is riding a tide of popularity as his rallies are pulling a huge crowd so far. Such an effort by the ruling PML-N had failed during its last tenure when Khan was campaigning that the Sharif family should be investigated for surfacing their name in the Panama Papers scandal. Anyone can recap that PTI workers had removed all barricades that had been placed by the police and local administration on the road leading to Bani Gala.

The federal government is already facing complete uncertainty about its survival as some unconfirmed media reports suggest that the ruling parties want guarantees from some powerful quarters, that it would complete its tenure till 2023, before taking tough decisions to bring the country out of these political and economic crises. If Prime Minister Sehhbaz Sharif’s government does not get some assurances, then it is ready to dissolve the assemblies to pave the way for general elections, according to the reports.

The federal government is convinced that any protest march to Islamabad followed by a sit-in would push the country towards more chaos and crisis. So, it wants either Khan postpone his anti-government march through the intervention of powers-that-be or they get some go ahead to complete their tenure and use all legal options to stop the way of PTI to hold the protest march to bring stability in the prevalent uncertain atmosphere in the country.

In this case only, Shehbaz Sharif government can use the option of limited use of force. Otherwise, such a fragile ruling coalition would not dare to think about going tough on PTI and prefer to go into the next election.