Tens of thousands of supporters in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore greeted popular opposition lawmaker Imran Khan as the country’s political parties launched their campaigns for the upcoming national elections.
Khan, a former cricket star who heads the opposition Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party, on April 29 launched his drive to become the country’s next prime minister ahead of the national elections in July.
Khan and his party have emerged as key challengers to former premier Nawaz Sharif, a three-time prime minister who was ousted by the Supreme Court last year but whose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party retains power.
The rally in a Lahore park took place around a grand minaret built at the spot where, in 1940, the resolution was adopted to demand independence from British rule.
“I pledge here to work till my last breath and last drop of my blood to make this nation and this country great and prosperous,” Khan told the cheering crowd while presenting an 11-point agenda.
Khan’s agenda includes reforming the country’s health and educational systems, control over corruption, providing low-cost housing, and women empowerment.
“It is time to change our destiny and think big,” he said.
Khan said he would push to bring about peaceful political change and to defeat the country’s “corrupt” politicians.
Rallies were also held by Pakistan’s other political parties on April 29.
The Pakistan People Party of former President Asif Zardari rallied in Karachi, while the newly revived alliance of seven religious parties — the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) — gathered in Mardan.
The leader of the MMA, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said he would not allow anyone to impose a Western agenda on the country if his party should win.
Supporters of Aftab Sherpao, former interior minister and lawmaker, rallied in the northwestern city of Swabim, while the Pashtun Protection Movement — a group that advocates for missing people and criticizes the army for its treatment of Pashtuns — gathered in the Swat Valley.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.