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Political shift seen in rally in Pakistan

Political shift seen in rally in Pakistan

The New York Times


An anti-government rally in Lahore, led by the former cricket star Imran Khan, attracted a huge crowd estimated at more than 100,000 people on Sunday evening. The rally represented what supporters and some political analysts said was Khan’s emergence as a serious challenger to the governing Pakistan People’s Party and its longtime rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-N.

Khan assailed the leaders of both parties – President Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif – as creatures of the status quo, and he has been a loud and frequent critic of Pakistan’s alliance with the United States, saying it was motivated by money.

The size of the crowd that Khan drew in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab and a traditional stronghold of the Muslim League-N, surprised his opponents and made an impression on political analysts.

Khan, 58, has languished on the political sidelines for years, and his political party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Justice Party, has no seats in the current Parliament. But his popularity has soared recently as voters, especially younger ones, have grown disillusioned with the establishment parties.

A survey conducted by a U.S. polling organization, the Pew Research Center, found in June that Khan had become the most popular political figure in the country.

After the crowd gave him a rousing welcome at the rally on Sunday evening, Khan threw out challenges to both Zardari and Sharif on the question of personal integrity, urging them both to disclose their assets or face civil disobedience.

“This is not a flood, this is a tsunami,” Khan said of the crowd thronging the Minaar-e-Pakistan ground in Lahore to hear him. “Anyone up against it will be swept away.”

Updated : 2021-10-19 16:32 GMT+08:00