LAHORE, March 23: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan made six promises to the nation on Saturday, vowing at a large gathering of his supporters to remain truthful, fight against oppression and eliminate misuse of authority and taxpayers’ money if he came to power.
In a speech that was cut short by rain, the PTI chief pledged to “live and die” in Pakistan and never to make property or keep his assets abroad. “I will keep all these promises and will not lie to seek your votes,” he told thousands of his ecstatic admirers at an event billed as the launch of the PTI’s election campaign at Minto Park.
The downpour, however, did not allow Mr Khan to spell out his party’s manifesto. It also forced him to put off an appeal for funds for the election campaign and an oath-taking of newly elected office-bearers.
There was a definite religious flavour to his speech as he sought to remind people that his party was on the ascent. “My faith in God, the Holy Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has kept me going throughout 17 years of my political life. It helped me stay calm during adversity and gave me the courage to take bold decisions. If you have faith in God nobody can put a price on you or buy you out,” Imran Khan said to thunderous applause.
Saturday’s rally was reminiscent of his party’s first major show of strength on Oct 30, 2011, which transformed the PTI from an also-ran to a major contender for power and forced many, especially his rival in Punjab, the PML-N, to take him seriously.
Although his party’s ratings in public polls have on the decline ever since, many expect his second Lahore rally to revive his popularity.
The PTI leader began his speech by asserting that the “change (his party is striving to bring about) has already arrived”, pointing to the presence of a “mammoth crowd” at the public meeting. “They cannot stop our tsunami even if they all join forces,” he declared, referring to the PML-N’s efforts to forge an alliance with other political parties before the general elections.
Although Mr Khan reiterated his pet line that his party was going to fight money with passion, the rally was not at all a bad show in financial terms either. Big sums of money appeared to have been thrown into the event as a kind of reminder to rivals in a city where the PML-N is known for running expensive election campaigns.
Imran Khan said he would not allow himself or his relatives to misuse power for personal benefits of to set up factories. “If I don’t prove true to my words, you should remove me from the office of chairman of the party,” he asked the elected office-bearers.
His speech mainly focused on the role of the youth, who were present at the rally in large numbers, in bringing about the change, saying the future of Pakistan was in their hands. He advised them to “learn from his life” to shun fear and make bold decisions like him. “God has blessed me with everything. I have stepped into politics because I’m concerned about you. Join me in building a new Pakistan,” he told the gathering a large percentage of which comprised women, again mainly young.
The PTI chief recalled that he and his sisters had grown up listening to the story of the passage of the Pakistan Resolution at the same venue on March 23, 1940, from their late father who stood there as a 17-year old listening to the speech of the Quaid-i-Azam. “Now it is your turn to tell your children that you were present at this venue when a new Pakistan was being built,” he told the young participants of the meeting.
The PTI chairman promised to protect the vulnerable segments of society – minorities, women, peasants, etc, -- from oppression and injustice.