Female supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf at their rally held inside Lahore's Minar-i-Pakistan ground. —Online Photo

LAHORE: Imran Khan surprised his detractors on Sunday by holding a massive public meeting, described by political observers as one of the biggest rallies held in Lahore over the past two decades. And in a hard-hitting speech he asked the rulers to declare their assets and threatened a civil disobedience movement and a countrywide blockade if they did not do so.

“Declare your assets or face the wrath of people,” the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf chief roared.

He said declaration of politicians’ assets was necessary for a transparent governance. If politicians did not do so, the PTI would set up a commission to prepare a list of politicians and their assets and take it to court, he said.

Mr Khan laid out his “plan to save the country’ as his supporters, including a large number of youths and women, raised enthusiastic slogans.

Caravans of youths from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also attended the meeting in the vast Minar-i-Pakistan ground.

Imran Khan said the PTI would never use the army against its own people nor would ever beg for aid. “Jinnah would have never begged and Imran will rather die than beg,” he said.

Though there was nothing new in the speech or the plan, the large meeting helped his party to maintain the momentum it had built with a series of rallies in Punjab and other areas.

Mr Khan said the PTI would end corruption, declare an education emergency, improve tax collection, pursue an independent foreign policy, bring Balochistan into the mainstream national politics, end the war on terror and protect rights of minorities and women.

He said most of the crises in the country were a result of corruption of the ruling elite.

Once it is taken up by an independent election commission and judiciary, the rest will be easy. “Pakistan is losing over Rs3,000 billion a year in tax corruption. If it can be tapped, the country does not need foreign aid. Once the government wins the confidence of people, economic woes would simply go away.”

Mr Khan said a country that had “over 180 billion tons of coal reserves could not in any way be called an energy starved state”. There is an equally great potential in hydro-electric resources.

“If the PTI can run thermal units even at 70 per cent of their installed capacity, currently running at 25 to 30 per cent, the country will have no energy crisis,” he said.

On foreign policy, he said the focus should be on “independence, not slavery: the PTI will want friendship with everyone, including the Americans, but on the basis of equality. The Americans will be told that Pakistan cannot fight their war and Pakistan Army cannot do its bidding.

“Ties with China will form the cornerstone of PTI’s foreign policy. I am leaving tonight for China at the invitation of the Chinese government and friendship with them will be pursued to the fullest.”

In a bid to dispel a perception of belonging to the ‘ultra right wing’ he said the PTI would “declare an education emergency for women; they will be educated and their right to property will be ensured as enshrined in Islamic laws. The minorities should rest assured that the PTI will stand for them once in power”.

He said drone attacks were part of the problem rather than a solution. “They are feeding terrorism. The PTI believes that they are pushing over one million armed Pakhtuns to the other side of the divide. Once Pakistan quits the US-sponsored war on terror, these one million armed tribal people will take care of militancy and terrorism in their areas. It is simply a matter of making the right choices.”

He said: “The Lahorites are slow to wake up, but once they do, as they are now, they are unstoppable.” He urged the people to “mobilise themselves to save the country”.

He concluded his speech by warning both President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif that “change is not only imminent but already under way and the corrupt will not find a place now to hide”.