After almost two years of confrontation through long marches, sit-ins, boycotts, resignations, ultimatums, fiery press conferences and then some more press conferences – the PML-N government and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have finally reached an agreement on the formation of a judicial commission (JC) to probe alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections. While the government ceded to the PTI’s demand of formation of a JC several months back, the two could not agree on the terms of reference (TORs) for the proposed inquiry. PTI’s claim is that the 2013 general elections were systematically rigged to benefit the PML-N, and therefore, the results do not reflect the mandate of the people. The PML-N sought an inquiry into the allegations of conspiracy and systematic rigging leveled by the PTI rather than a general audit of the election whereas the PTI favoured the latter. The government was of the view that the PTI cannot be allowed to backtrack from its many accusations, and they ought to be the subject of the inquiry. The PTI was hesitant to accept that.

Reports containing the proposed TORs reveal that the PML-N has prevailed. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar acknowledged that the PTI showed “much flexibility”, which finally created the much-needed breakthrough. What compelled PTI Chairman Imran Khan to accept the government-proposed TORs? Despite all its efforts, the PTI ultimately failed to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The third umpire never raised his finger, leaving Imran Khan high and dry. The party found itself politically isolated and it became clear that it would have to negotiate with the government to reach an agreement. The Peshawar tragedy allowed the PTI to end the sit-in in Islamabad, which essentially killed the failed campaign. The party had also appeared increasingly confused about its direction. It continued to rule in KP, boycotted the National Assembly and then participated wholeheartedly in the Senate elections. This formation of the JC might pave the way for return of PTI MNAs to the parliament and claim some sort of a victory. The government would pat itself on the back for keeping the PTI off the streets and helping evolve consensus on the TORs. Everyone wins until someone loses.