It’s official: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has arrived.
The chairman of the party, Imran Khan, addressed an enormous crowd at the Minar-e-Pakistan grounds in Lahore. Intelligence sources said that between 65,000 and 70,000 attended the rally, while PTI’s deputy information secretary claimed the figure was over 100,000. Journalists’ counts ranged from 60,000 to 70,000 people.
Other PTI leaders also spoke, taking the opportunity to knock the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the party’s rivals in the Punjab heartland. Imran, however, focused more on his manifesto and vision for Pakistan.
Imran demanded that the PPP-led coalition government declare their assets, along with those of opposition parties. A failure to do so would launch the PTI on a civil disobedience movement across the country.
He said his party would form a special cell to probe assets owned by politicians in the country, adding that the PTI is ready to go to the Supreme Court to demand an independent election commission.
The former cricketer also outlined a 10-point agenda from his party, which he termed the only solution to the country’s current problems. The rally had an electric atmosphere, certainly aided by the large presence of the youth. In parts it had elements of a rock festival, as musicians, including Shehzad Roy, performed.
Imran said the gathering was the fruit of his 15 years of work in politics. With the support of the youth, he said, the political status quo in Pakistan could be broken up.
He also shed light on the choice of Lahore as the venue for the rally, referring to Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah starting his movement for Pakistan from the same city.
Imran rebuked President Asif Ali Zardari for forgetting “Bhutto’s philosophy of socialism”. Instead, Khan said, Zardari had “promoted imperialism and around 16,000 people have committed suicide during his era.”
Khan also termed the PML-N’s gathering on October 28 as a ‘Patwari’ rally and mocked the Sharif brothers’ ambitions: “You could not kill the mosquito – how will you remove Zardari from the presidency”.
As a further warning to his political rivals, Khan declared: “Those in Raiwind and Islamabad should know that it is not a flood that is coming, but a tsunami.”
PTI’s 10-point programme
Khan vowed that if PTI came to power, it would end power crisis through coal reserves and by enhancing the capacity of generation plants.
Khan said that Rs3,000 billion is wasted every year due to corruption, and stated his party would end Pakistan’s “biggest problem” while also bringing back foreign assets lying in Swiss banks.
The party would wipe out all ‘Patwaris’ through computerised systems. Khan said that people in villages live like slaves due to corrupt Patwaris and police.
The PTI would devise a new local government system which would enhance education and health in villages.
He said the PTI would also ensure rights for Balochistan and end to target killings. Khan said his party would talk with Akhtar Mengal and the son of the Nawab of Kalat in this regard.
On terrorism, Khan termed the ‘war on terror’ as the US’ war and vowed to hang all those responsible for the deaths of 35,000 innocent Pakistanis. He said that there are one million armed people in the tribal areas who, if drone attacks stopped, would happily remove terrorists living in their areas. Khan added that the PTI would withdraw the military from the tribal areas.
On foreign policy, he said that his party would extend friendship to the US, but not at the cost of the country’s sovereignty – and would prefer to have close ties with China.
Regarding Kashmir, Khan said that he would convince India to withdraw its military from the disputed region and start negotiations with Kashmiri leaders.
He also said that the PTI would ensure the rights of minorities and labourers in the country, as well as empowering women through education.
(Read: Save Pakistan rally - High turnout raises hopes for change)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2011.