The verdict against Nawaz and Maryam Sharif provided an excellent opportunity for rival political parties to swoop in and claim any possible votes that the ex-premier may have suffered due to his conviction. The loss for the Sharifs, and in extension the PML-N, has seen a scurry of small parties switch support and latch on to other bigger parties, particularly to PTI, which stands the most to gain. What this support means, and whether it is a good reflection for PTI, is another question altogether.

The latest of the parties to listen to the winds and adjust their sails is Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST). While these smaller parties’ support is always fickle and dependent on who can provide them a bigger foot-in into politics, the reason for why PST is aligning itself now with PTI is particularly worrying. PST’s district president M. Ijaz Qadri made it clear that it was PML-N’s change in the Khatam-e-Nabuwat clause fiasco, and its advocacy of friendship with India that lead to this switching of support, indicating that it was PTI’s exploiting of the Faizabad scenario that was the cause of this support.

If Imran Khan’s speech in Swat yesterday, where he brought up the Khatam-e-Nabuwat issue again and rehashed conspiracy theories, tells us something, it is that PTI was prepared for such support of religious parties and had in fact campaigned for it. While all opposition political parties had benefitted from PML-N’s handling of the Faizabad protest, no party other than PTI had so directly flamed the fans of anti-Ahmadi venom, and repeatedly brought it up as this divisive issue again and again.

Many constantly forgive Imran Khan for dipping into extremist waters for support, dabbing it an unpleasant but necessary move for a politician to do. However, his address at Swat and the subsequent positive response he received from these parties, is an indication of the darker paths PTI is taking. With the manifesto for the party not released yet, PTI’s ideology that it plans to adhere to for the next political decade is unclear-but these inclinations towards appeasing extremist fires indicates a troubling route. The party’s campaigning on such explosive and divisive issues may seem like a temporary tactic for the party to collect some remnant votes but as time has shown, these issues can snowball into something bigger than the party.