Lahore: Cricketer-turned-politician Imran
Khan on Sunday led a massive gathering of his supporters here as
he sought to galvanise his fledgling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf
party by raking up the issue of the rights of Kashmiris and
seeking withdrawal of Indian troops from Jammu and Kashmir.
The rally near the Minar-e-Pakistan monument, which was
attended by over 100,000 people, was aimed at projecting Khan
as a serious contender in Pakistan`s political arena ahead of
the 2013 general election.
Over the past few months, Khan`s party has sought to
enlarge its support base in Punjab, the country’s most
Khan`s nearly 50-minute speech largely focussed on the
problems and challenges facing Pakistan, including corruption
and crippling power outages, but he used the occasion to take
up several populist issues, including the Kashmir dispute.
"I want to tell Hindustan that the 700,000 troops you
have kept among the Kashmiris - no Army has been able to solve
any country`s problems at any time," he said to cheers from
"Did the Americans succeed in Afghanistan? Is the Indian
Army more powerful than the US Army? When the Americans
couldn`t succeed, how can you succeed with 700,000 troops that
are involved in excesses?" he alleged.
Khan, whose party did not participate in the last general
election and fared poorly in previous polls, called on India
to give "Kashmiris their rights and call back the troops".
He said his party would "stand with the Kashmiri brothers
and speak for their rights at all forums".
He said the rally marked the culmination of a movement
begun 15 years ago by the Pakistan Tehrik to tackle the
country`s problems, including corruption, inflation, rising
prices, lack of education, unemployment and an energy crisis.
While raking up such populist issues, Khan criticised
both the ruling Pakistan People`s Party led by President Asif
Ali Zardari and the main opposition PML-N led by former
premier Nawaz Sharif.
"I pledge that no strength, including Zardari or Nawaz
Sharif, can stop this flood. This is not a flood, it is a
tsunami. Anyone standing in its way will be swept away," he
In a reference to his cricketing days, Khan said: "A
terrific in-swinger is on its way, and this will be the first
ball that will remove the wickets of two batsmen at the same
Khan gave Zardari and all politicians a "few months" to
declare their assets and sources of income. He said his party
would set up a special cell to name and shame politicians who
had millions of dollars stashed away in foreign banks.
Pledging that the Pakistan Army would never be used
against the country`s citizens, Khan said his party would roll
back military operations in the restive northwest and engage
in dialogue, truth and reconciliation to resolve unrest.
He contended that the tribesmen in Pakistan`s northwest
would be able to end terrorism if the country halted military
operations and pulled out of the US-led war on terror.
"Military operations will not lessen extremism and
terrorism or give peace a chance...Drone attacks are driving
people to extremism," he said.
Khan said his party wanted friendship with all countries,
including the US, but would not act as a "slave" for American
"We will help the US to leave Afghanistan but we will not
carry out military operations...We will not beg (for aid) from
anyone. We will not beg because there is no respect for
beggars," he added.
Khan further said his party would work for the rights of
women, including a special drive to educate girls, and the
rights of minorities like Christians, Hindus and Sikhs.