Fitting with the cricket motif that runs through most of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf, there has been a hat-trick of Punjab Election Tribunal’s decision in favor of the party- and the fact is not lost on its members. Ayaz Sadiq, Khwaja Saad Rafique, and now Muhammad Siddique Khan Baloch have been de-seated; three Pakistan Muslim league Nawaz (PML-N) heavyweights. This fact too is not lost on the party. As expected the party has wasted no time in celebrating raucously, and have reiterated their demand for the resignation of Election Commission Pakistan’s (ECP) members from both province.

Quite sensibly, the talk of staging sit-ins to force the demand has been missing from the statements made by PTI politicians like Shah Mehmood Qureshi this time around – but Imran Khan has still threatened it in no unclear terms. While the government may breath a sigh of relief to hear this, they must not sit idly by while the PTI pick up momentum. The PML-N must realise that once more the PTI narrative has reverted to a moral high ground – they can claim they have been wronged. Where the PML-N stonewalled their previous attempts at accountability – setting off a chain of events that snowballed into the hugely destabilising dharna – it must not stonewall them again. The government must be pro-active, the Judicial Commission gave a decision in their favour, but this does not mean the ECP is without fault.

‘Irregularities’ in high profile constituencies may not mean a conspiracy to rig the elections, but it definitely means that the ECP has been found wanting. Its ineptitude extends beyond the Election Day. The election tribunals are supposed to give their decagons in 120 days after the filling of a complaint, yet it has taken them more than 2 years to decide the present cases – costing the parties and the state millions. Were it not for PTI pressure, they would have taken longer; the previous PPP term saw cases drag on for the whole 5 years without any decision being made. The ECP needs reform; that much is undeniable.

Reform starts with accountability. The PTI has asked for the cooperation of other political parties to remove the provincial heads of the ECP through the Supreme Judicial Commission (SJC) – the constitutional way to remove senior bureaucrats, and the government should listen. The standing committee established for electoral reform has disappeared silently into the night; it needs to be bought back. The PML-N needs to be more pliant and accommodating of legitimate demands, that is the only way to reassure their democratic credentials – and the most effective way to nip PTI pressure in the bud.