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Khan Draws Big Crowd As Pakistani Parties Launch Campaign Drives


Imran Khan, former cricket star who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party (file photo)

Tens of thousands of supporters in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore greeted popular opposition lawmaker Imran Khan, as the country’s political parties launched their campaigns for the upcoming national elections.

Khan, a former cricket star who heads the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, launched his drive on April 29 to become the country's next prime minister ahead of national elections in July.

Khan and his party have emerged as key challengers to former premier Nawaz Sharif, a three-time prime minister who was ousted by the Supreme Court last year but whose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party retains power.

The rally in a Lahore park took place around a grand minaret built on the spot where, in 1940, the resolution was adopted to demand independence from British rule.

"I pledge here to work till my last breath and last drop of my blood to make this nation and this country great and prosperous," Khan told the cheering crowd while presenting an 11-point agenda.

Khan's agenda includes reforming the country's health and educational systems, control over corruption, providing low-cost housing, and women's empowerment.

"It is time to change our destiny and think big," he said.

Khan said he would push to bring about “peaceful political change” and to defeat the country’s "corrupt" politicians.

Rallies were also held by Pakistan’s other political parties on April 29.

The Pakistan People Party of former President Asif Zardari rallied in Karachi, while the newly revived alliance of seven religious parties -- the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) -- gathered in Mardan.

The leader of the MMA, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said he would not allow anyone to impose a Western agenda on the country if his party should win.

Supporters of Aftab Sherpao, former interior minister and lawmaker, rallied in the northwestern city of Swabim, while the Pashtun Protection Movement -- a group that advocates for missing people and criticizes the army for its treatment of Pashtuns -- gathered in Swat Valley.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and The Express Tribune

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