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KARACHI ABUZZ December 27, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in South Asia.
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The crowds in Karachi and previously in Lahore were larger than those attending any cricket match. It seems clear that Imran Khan must now be judged as a major political figure in Pakistan.

Kamal Hyder reports for Aljazeera against the backdrop of the massive numbers of people attending the rally called by Imran Khan’s Pakistan’s Movement for Justice party (PTI):

Imran Khan is running on a platform “to end major corruption in 90 days”. The military is reported to be increasingly dissatisfied with the government of President Zardari. Reuters reports in The Dawn that this is a time of crisis in Pakistan and at a time of crisis in the relationship with the United States resulting in the sealing of the Afghanistan border. Whether there is any significance that Imran Khan is Pashtun is not mentioned.

However, despite the impressive numbers that have come out to hear him, and his attraction in urban areas, the report notes that will not be sufficient to play a strong political hand:

Several recent polls have shown Khan is Pakistan’s most popular politician. He is especially favoured in urban areas.

“He is riding a wave of popular politics right now,” said Mutahir Ahmed, a professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi. “There is a lot of frustration among ordinary people, as well as political workers right now, which he is cashing on.”

On Oct 30 Khan staged a similar rally in Lahore that observers said pulled between 100,000 and 200,000 people, then one of the largest political rallies ever in Pakistan.

“He has … managed to bring people out on the roads, and this is a big achievement, especially in Karachi, where three months back people were not ready to come out of their houses because of rampant violence and killings,” Ahmed said.

But popularity doesn’t always translate into political power. The majority of Pakistan’s voters are rural, where feudal relationships determine generations of political loyalty.

Khan, for all the enthusiasm shown for him among young people and the urban middle class, has yet to demonstrate the party machinery that the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-N faction have had decades to perfect.

In the last 15 years, the PTI has only briefly held one seat in parliament, Khan’s. Most analysts say Khan could score an upset of 20 to 30 seats in parliament, but that’s not enough to give him the premiership. It is enough to make him a major political player, however or even a kingmaker.

Interestingly, the American Ambassador, did not seem to believe that Imran Khan was “anti-American”, perhaps judging that any Pakistani politician seeking popular approval would adopt such a position, or perhaps discounting as rhetoric the position in regard to major corruption.

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