There will be no compromise on the Terms of Reference (ToRs), the government declared on Wednesday. Talking to media persons after the in-camera meeting of the technical sub-committee of Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms, the Federal Law Minister, Zahid Hamid rubbished the criticism of the opposition on the ToRs for the judicial commission, claiming all the demands of the opposition parties were fulfilled in these ToRs to handle the situation. While that claim is evidently incorrect – after all why are the opposition parties protesting if all their claims have been met – the implications are the correct ones; at least from a PML-N perspective.

The ruling party has had enough with back-pedalling and seems to have found new steel; recent government press conferences display more of the classic PML-N belligerence that it is known for. With the commission constituted and the CJP in-charge, the PML-N can now hold firm on smaller points of conflict – such as the exact wordings of the ToRs or additional powers for the commission. After weeks of ill-advised and brash steps to contain the damage, the party may have found the right formula.

Nawaz Sharif will roam the land inspecting developmental projects to remind the people of the economic progress achieved by his party and will address rallies at those places to remind them some more. And while the prime minister is off collecting lost political points, the party will hold the fort back in the capital; sparing the Prime Minister the indignity of having to defend himself in front of the public. The PML-N can now negotiate from a position of relative strength – forcing the ball back in the opposition’s court.

The opposition’s court, however, doesn’t seem stable at the moment. The coalitions of parties – PPP, PML-Q, JI, MQM and PTI – that are pushing for accountability have very little in common apart from the shared indignation over the Panama leaks. They all want to score political points against the PML-N, but will not do anything too risky to get them – such as march on Raiwind. Hence they can’t seem to agree on a combined strategy. Only the PTI is willing to go the distance to get what it wants, but cracks are starting to appear in its resolute resolve too. Reports of infighting between Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar – who were the party’s chief organisers for south and north Punjab, respectively – will divide the party into camps and divert attention from their objective.

All eyes are on the opposition – can they respond to PML-N stubbornness?