The PTI has painted itself the defiant rebel, fighting insurmountable odds on pure willpower. Underneath that thin layer, one finds the old boys, the same men. Distanced from celebrated symbolic victories and slogans about lions, rabbits and ‘baaghis,’ a clearer picture emerges. As Amir Dogar, a PTI candidate in all but name emerged as the victor against PML-N backed Javed Hashmi, the scenes of revelry and celebration by the PTI, albeit expected, are hard to reconcile with Imran Khan’s verbal crusade of the past two months.

For months, PTI has been discrediting the system. It boycotted the by-election, declared the general elections a sham and the parliament, thieves. The ECP was a corrupt, malicious and dysfunctional organisation, not even the Supreme Court could be trusted while Nawaz was around. Despite all of this, it backed a candidate in the same system, under the same ECP, and the same government. Amir Dogar went on record to allege “massive irregularities” across several polling stations, but this is forgotten now that he is the victor. Forgotten, like every other charge against the government.

For months, PTI has been attacking the patronage system and the VIP culture. It hounded out parliamentarians with business interests. It declared dynastic politics the bane of democracy. It demeaned the politics of “deal-making” and nepotism. It was the harbinger of change; a new breed of politician. Despite all this, it has backed known electables, with shifting loyalties; those which belong to families of politicians and represent local business interests. Amir Dogar appears to be from the exact same mould of politician from which Nawaz Sharif sprang. But this inconvenient detail does not stand in the way of PTI claiming victory.

How does one reconcile the two? How does Imran? Or maybe things like principles and ideologies do not stand in the way of victory at Bani Gala. It is hard to buy the “New Pakistan” sales pitch if the new is the same old opportunistic politics. The PTI needs to answer; if there can be a fair election in NA-140 Multan-II under the ECP and Sharif government, then why can’t the Supreme Court be trusted to adjudicate election rigging unless Nawaz leaves? If it is a breakaway from politics of the past, why are its party ranks stocked with electables? If it refuses to pay utility bills and taxes to the state, why does it take part in an election organised by the same state? Imran Khan must stop sitting on the fence, deciding which side is greener before he jumps. Either he must adhere to the principle he articulates, or he must drop the mantle of a “New Pakistan.”