The 59-year-old Khan entered politics 15 years ago when he founded Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or the Movement for Justice Party and struggled to translate his sporting fame into votes.
But his political fortunes changed in October. He said he was shocked that crowds he estimated at 250,000 people turned out to support him not only in Lahore but later in Karachi, apparently attracted by his pledge to fight corruption, promote real democracy, institute a welfare system, and change Pakistan’s relationship with the United States.
”Eighty per cent of the politicians have joined me … because their children have revolted,” Khan said.
”People basically want the same democratic rights that exist in the Western countries. They want the same democracy, the same freedom.”
National elections are not scheduled until 2013, but Khan and other opposition leaders have been pressing the government to hold earlier polls.
Despite Khan’s rising popularity, it’s unclear how much he can shake up the political scene in the 2013 elections.
Khan said he was not daunted by the parties which he called ”political mafias.”
”The struggle that’s coming up in Pakistan is between a huge population dying for a democratic change against these political mafias that have stunted our growth and sold the interests of the country,” he told several hundred business and political leaderws at a luncheon on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum sponsored by the Pathfinder Group which carries out a wide variety of services in 132 cities and towns in Pakistan.
”I don’t think we’ll win the election —I think we’ll sweep the elections,” Khan predicted. ”But I hope we get two-thirds (of the seats in parliament) and I think we will.”
If the party wins, he said he will immediately focus on instituting the rule of law, expanding health care and education, especially for women, collecting taxes and tackling the country’s energy crisis.
Khan said Pakistan also needs a new relationship with the United States —a friendly one but not one in which Pakistan is a ”client state.”
”We don’t want to be, as we have been, a hired gun being paid to fight their war,” he said. ”We want a relationship where we are a credible, sovereign government. … Surely, that is what the US should want a Pakistani government to do, and that is what an Indian government should want.”
Khan said he hoped that Pakistan will have a relationship with India where the only competition is on the cricket field or ”which country reduces poverty first.”