Imran riding a tidal of youth power: Report

US media reports said that the Tehreek-e-Insaf party chief was emerging as the most serious challenger in the country.

Last Updated: Oct 31, 2011, 16:27 PM IST

Washington: Imran riding a tidal of youth power: Report Languishing on the political
sidelines for years, cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan is
fast riding a tidal wave of youth support which could see him
swept to power in Pakistan.

Though critics and political opponents still dismiss him
as `political nobody`, US media reports said that the
58-year-old Tehreek-e-Insaf party chief was emerging as the
most serious challenger in the country, cashing in almost
total disillusionment of the people with mainline parties.

The New York Times said that the huge turnout at Khan`s
last evening rally in Lahore had made his opponents in the
ruling People`s party and Nawaz Sharif led Muslim League sit
up with surprise and that the former pacer was also cashing in
rampant anti-American sentiments in the country.

The paper said that though Khan`s party has no seats in
the current parliament, his popularity has soared recently as
voters, specially younger ones, have grown disillusioned with
the establishment parties.

NYT said a survey conducted by a US polling organisation,
the Pew Research centre in June found that Khan had suddenly
become the most popular figure in Pakistan.

The ruling Pakistan People`s Party is not required to
call general elections until February 2013, the paper said
with a sinking economy, rising inflation, power struggles and
terrorism taking a toll on the nation, a clamour had begun for
a mid-term poll.

Khan in an interview to the paper said he expected the
Lahore rally to be seen as a test of his political future.

"Lahore decides what happens in Punjab," he said. "Punjab
decides what happens in Pakistan."

On the turnout at his rally, Khan said, "this is not a
flood, this is a tsunami and anyone up against it will be
swept away."

NYT said that Khan`s anti-Americanism was at fore as he
expressed opposition to cooperating with US against militants
based in the country`s north-west region, near the Afghan
border.

He also said that Pakistan army should not conduct
operations in those areas and not allow American drone
strikes.

"My message to America is that we will have friendship
with you, but we will not accept any slavery," he said. "We
will help you in a respectable withdrawl of your troops from
Afghanistan, but we will not launch a military operation in
Pakistan for you."

The media report said that Imran was an emerging force
and was already getting tactic backing from the powerful army
as also endorsements from erstwhile military ruler Parvez
Musharraf.

PTI