As the initial furore over the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report settles down battle lines are being drawn. After bearing the brunt of the pressure over the past few days and coming close to buckling – there are reports of hurried meetings and plans for all contingencies – the government seems to have rallied. Chairing an emergency meeting of the Cabinet, Nawaz Sharif has announced that he will not resign as the Prime Minister on anyone’s call, saying that, “the people of Pakistan have elected me and only they can remove me from this post.” A legal battle seems to be in the offing at the least, what other kinds of battles we can expect is the question on everyone’s mind.

Up till now the opposition has been unanimous in its demands that the Prime Minister step down. With most media houses and commentators joining this call, the demands have gotten pretty deafening – but Nawaz Sharif has stood firm. The opposition’s bold proclamations that the Prime Minister will be gone by the end of the week seem premature now. Other parties have also joined the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ministers in defending the premiership. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman stated on Thursday that the Panama papers investigation will “bring a negative impact on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project”. Baseless and fantastical as his claims may be, the crucial fact here is that PML-N has some allies in this battle.

The ball is now in the opposition’s court – how will they respond to Nawaz Shari refusing to step down? The instinctive action would be to build on the pressure, hold rallies, protest in the streets and try to force the government’s hand. Tempting as that option may be the opposition must stay away from it. Protests like the Dharna have divided opinions sharply across the Pakistani populace, and with the majority of the country behind the opposition on this issue, sparking a divisive and damaging confrontation will only weaken that position. Furthermore, this is exactly what the government is looking for – an attempt to forcibly remove the PM from office. This would justify his ‘victimhood’ narrative, undermine the opposition’s support and provide him with the rhetoric needed to fight back in the 2018 elections.

The opposition must not take to the streets; it should continue to do what has brought them great success over the past months – pursue the legal case against the Prime Minister to its logical end. There is a distinct possibility that he will make it to the election while still clinging on to power, but that scenario is better for the opposition than a resurgent Nawaz Sharif with the sympathy vote and combative voter base.