NEW YORK - With Imran Khans political popularity on the upswing across Pakistan, the United States is watching the Opposition leader closely, a major American newspaper said Saturday. American officials in Islamabad concede, they are watching him closely, The Christian Science Monitor said in a dispatch, noting that the cricketer-turned-politicians political life appears to be experiencing a new high thanks in part to his unique brand of anti-Americanism, which finds support among Pakistans professional classes youth and women. According to a research carried out by Pew polling in Pakistan, he enjoys a 68 per cent approval rating, up from 52 per cent last year, making him the countrys most popular politician. Long derided as a non-serious candidate in an electoral system dominated by two major parties-the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Khan surprised political pundits last month by attracting thousands of supporters to a major protest in Peshawar against US drone attacks in Pakistans tribal areas, before going on to stage a sit-in to 'symbolically block NATO supply lines for Afghanistan that pass through the port city of Karachi, the report said. With his good looks and seeming willingness to speak plainly, Khan is to Pakistan what Sarah Palin, the Republican Presidential candidate in 2008, is to the US, the report said, noting that both are controversial and both elicit polarising reactions. Khans urbane appeal as a former internationally acclaimed cricketer means he can reach a wider, less religious audience and position himself as the acceptable face of anti-Americanism, Badar Alam, Editor of Pakistans Herald Magazine, was quoted as saying. When Mullahs talk, people do not stop to listen, but when a Western educated clean-shaven man does the same, it does suit them, Alam said of Oxford-educated Khan. Khans support base of Pakistans middle class, women, and the youth (who make up 70 per cent of the country) are exactly the groups the United States has targeted in its battle to win hearts and minds in Pakistan, the report said. The youth of this country think politics is entirely rubbish, columnist Fasi Zaka said. Therefore, Khans message of bringing about a revolution appeals to young people turned off by traditional politics. Another part of Khans appeal is his squeaky-clean reputation in a country where allegations of corruption are rampant. When compared to the other personalities in Pakistani politics, he is a saint, Zaka said. But citing critics, the Monitor said that Imran Khans penchant for tageting the US as the only major factor behind terrorism in Pakistan is flawed, if ridiculous. He once stated that if the US left Afghanistan, he could end all terror in 90 days, says Alam, the Editor. Khan has also been accused of being simple-minded. He has long been a vociferous supporter of Pakistans Chief Justice Iftikhar Chauhdry, while at the same time advocating for the traditional Pashtun jirga courts, which often push harsh and collective punishments, according to the dispatch.