I pledge to rid the country of corruption and make it a truly Islamic welfare state, said the ex-cricketer

Tens of thousands, including women and children, rallied in support of cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan here on Sunday, showcasing his party as a rising force in the country's politics.

Mr. Khan's “tsunami” rally swept Pakistan's biggest city as approximately 1,00,000 people converged near the mausoleum of Pakistan's founding leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah to hear the ex-cricketer pledge a new beginning for the country if his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, came to power in the next election.

“I pledge to rid this country of corruption and injustice and to make it a truly Islamic welfare state just like the Quaid-e-Azam envisioned for our country,” he said at the gathering, which he described as a bigger rally than the one held in Lahore in October.

“I will give you change. My party wants a Pakistan where not only human beings but animals also get justice. We want to establish a proper Islamic welfare state where there is no discrimination between the rich and the poor and where the state looks after its people,” Mr. Khan said.

“This country has been ravaged by corrupt people and I am now ready to play any cricket match they want,” he said to the cheering crowd.

Taking jibes at his main political foes, Mr. Khan challenged the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, who is the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and President Asif Ali Zardari.

“I would tell Nawaz Sharif that if he wants to play a 10-over match, he should do it quickly or he might not find the players to select his team. I also wanted to play a cricket match with Asif Zardari, but he is now retired hurt,” he said.

The presence of a large number of women and youth indicated that Mr. Khan had been successful in reaching out to those in Pakistani society who had never bothered to cast votes or take politicians seriously.

Mr. Khan's message of coming down hard on corruption and standing up to the United States has found popular support in the country at a time when Pakistanis are fed up with the country's economic malaise and chronic insecurity.

“The sea of change has already begun. I didn't think that we could hold a bigger rally than the one we had in Lahore, but today, Karachiites, I congratulate you as you have broken the record and not let me down,” Mr. Khan said.

He said foreign investors had stopped investing in the country because of the law and order and security situation, particularly here in the financial hub.

It was easily one of the biggest political rallies organised in the city in the last two decades, matching the ones held by the Mutthaida Qaumi Movement as the participants made it clear they wanted change in the country.

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