Perhaps the loudest comment on the PTI’s long-anticipated Long March came from party chief Imran Khan’s arrival at those who stayed overnight, and his equally rapid disappearance towards his Bani Gala residence when he saw that the protesters were not present in anywhere near the numbers he had anticpated. As is so often said, actions speak louder than words. His departure was followed by even more of the protesters, who could explain it away by thinking to themselves they were merely following the party leader. A lot of those who have fought the good fight, but found that the government was still in place the morning after, decided that discretion was the better part of valour. The help from the establishment was not visible either. There was no help offered to keep people in place. There was no support of the government shown by shooting at the crowd, but it never came even close to that, and the government only used the police to maintain law and order.
True, law and order came under stress. The incidents of arson and riot when the protesters reached D-Chowk showed that a greater conflagration was avoided, but it also represented a direct defiance of the Supreme Court’s order that the sit-in be held in H-9. However, it was not the purpose of the PTI to make a show of strength in an unpopulated wilderness. However, the Supreme Court’s refusal to entertain a contempt petition against the PTI for holding its sit-in at an unauthorized place was rejected, thereby showing that Mr Khan’s accusations in preparatory rallies, that the judiciary was involved in the foreign-led conspiracy to oust him, may have had an effect, as legal battles are beginning to go his way, such as the pre-arrest and post-arrest bail petitions of various PTI leaders.
However, apart from the amount of extra waste generated, the Long March has left behind a weakened country. Apart from the individual hardships that accompanied it, the breakdown of negotiations with IMF in Doha, and the refusal of banks to extend further credit to oil marketing companies, insisting they make purchases only against cash, are not just indications of things to come, but also of how the country has been damaged by a Long March that did not meet even the hopes of its originators.