Imran confident of election win
Pakistani cricket legend and opposition politician Imran Khan has predicted that his party will sweep the next national elections and he will become the country's next prime minister.
Khan, 59, 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 the eastern city of 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.
Mr Khan, who has built a cancer hospital and rural university in Pakistan, credited the rise of independent television channels and social media for catapulting his party into the political spotlight and attracting support from prominent politicians and especially from young people.
"80% of the politicians have joined me ... because their children have revolted," Mr 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 Mr Khan and other opposition leaders have been pressing the government to hold earlier polls.
Despite Mr Khan's rising popularity, it is unclear how much he can shake up the political scene in the 2013 elections.
Both the US-allied Pakistan Peoples Party led by President Asif Ali Zardari and the country's largest party, Pakistan Muslim League-N, led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, have strongly entrenched bases of support that will be difficult to challenge.
Mr Khan said he was not daunted by these 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 said.
"I don't think we'll win the election - I think we'll sweep the elections," Mr Khan predicted. "But I hope we get two-thirds (of the seats in parliament) and I think we will."