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Imran Khan's 'Tsunami' Sweeps Nation as Pakistan Prepares to Vote

Anti-Drone, Anti-Corruption platform strikes a chord

- Craig Brown, staff writer

A massive crowd rallies Thursday evening, May 9, 2013 for Imran Khan, the populist cricketer-turned-activist. Khan has drawn massive crowds and enthusiasm in the closing days of Pakistan's national elections. (Photo/Facebook)

Imran Khan Hundreds of thousands of energized Pakistani voters filled Islamabad's Parade Avenue (D-Chowk) Thursday night for the final rally of the surging campaign of Pakistan's populist Imran Khan on the last day of campaigning ahead of Saturday’s national election.

Kahn has captured the pulse of the nation with his anti-corruption, anti-US drone platform. Khan and his PTI party's 'Tsunami' campaign has drawn massive crowds and enthusiasm all over Pakistan in the closing days of campaigning. A poll earlier this week said Khan was nearly tied for support with the presumed front-runner Nawaz Sharif.

Imran Khan spoke to the massive Islamabad crowd via teleconference from his hospital bed. Khan sustained three fractured vertebrae and a broken rib during a rally on Tuesday night when he fell off a forklift while being lifted up to the stage.

Khan founded his PTI party in 1996. The party -- Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (Pakistan's Movement for Justice) -- has a tagline of: Justice, Humanity, Self-Esteem. The Oxford-educated Khan is a national hero who captained the Pakistani cricket team to a World Cup victory in 1992.

While Khan has vowed to take a stand against drone strikes, clean up corruption, and push for justice, he has also made several specific campaign promises:

  • "I will never lie to the nation."
  • "Me and my government will wage a 'Jihad' against injustice in the country."
  • "I will keep all my wealth in Pakistan, I will not be like other leaders who rule in Pakistan but keep their wealth abroad."
  • "I will never take personal benefit from being in government, nor will my relatives be allowed to benefit from my being in power."

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Imran Khans' Facebook page, Twitter feed and website.

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From Reuters:

"Until recently people didn't have a choice, it was a case of choosing the best worst option," said Shafqat Mahmood, who is hoping to win a parliamentary seat for Khan's party in the city of Lahore."Now people have another choice, someone who is...a national hero in more ways than one."[...]

A senior diplomat said the military sees Khan, who has vowed to wipe out corruption, as a useful safety valve for popular anger over the graft and incompetence of the political class.

A survey by the Pew Research Center released this week found an "exceedingly grim" public mood in Pakistan, with roughly 90 percent saying their country is on the wrong track.

Six in 10 people surveyed by Pew said they had a positive view of Khan, who says he is one of the very few political leaders to declare his income and assets to the tax authorities.

In power, however, Khan could be a thorn in the side of the army, which is frustrated by the lack of support from politicians for its battle against Taliban insurgents in tribal areas that has killed and maimed thousands of soldiers.

Khan has vowed that, if he comes to power, he would end Pakistan's cooperation with Washington in the war on Islamist militancy, stop the American drone strikes targeting militants and refuse further U.S. aid. He also wants to stop the fight against the Taliban and seek a negotiated settlement.

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Supporters await Imran Khan's speech Thursday evening, May 9, 2013 at his campaign's closing rally in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Photo/Facebook)

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Imran Kahn supporters stretched out for kilometers Thursday evening, May 9, 2013 in Islamabad, Pakistan.(Photo/Facebook)

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Raw video tape of Imran Khan tumbling off a forklift while being lifted to a campaign rally stage in Lahore, Pakistan on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. Khan sustained three fractured vertebrae and a broken rib.

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