NEW YORK - Hundreds of flag-waving and slogan-shouting Pakistanis, assembled in New York Friday, night heard cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan promising to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state if his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, came to power in the next elections.

 “I pledge to rid our country of corruption and injustice and to turn it into a welfare state as envisioned by Allama Iqbal and the Quaid-e-Azam,” he told the enthusiastic crowd in a brief telephonic address from Pakistan.

 It was the biggest gathering of Pakistanis to be held in New York, with PTI supporters joining in from across the United States and Canada. The event was well managed by energetic PTI workers, led by its local president Muzzamil Anwar. The atmosphere in the spacious hall of Soundview Broadcating, a modern Pakistani-owned facility for launching international ethnic television channels in US and Canada, was festive with Imran Khan eliciting loud applause during his address.

The PTI chief dismissed the propaganda that his party has been hijacked by politicians from other parties and that its principles have been compromised. The PTI, he said, was standing by its agenda to fight for the rights of the downtrodden people of Pakistan and that there would be no compromise on its principles it struggled for the last 15 years.  He said it was true that many people were joining PTI, but that only people with clean record will get ticket to fight the elections. A screening system would be put in place and tickets awarded only on the basis of merit.  He would assemble a competent team to run the country and restore its image in the comity of nations.

Imran said Pakistan was poised for a change and that no one can stop the tsunami sweeping the country.  He said his team of experts was already evolving policies on agriculture reforms, economic stability, labour issues, foreign affairs, local governance, reforms in taxation system and education. “The darkness enveloping Pakistan would disappear, ushering in a bright new dawn,” he said.

Earlier, PTI office-bearers, led by senior party leader Mahmood Awan, highlighted Imran Khan’s contribution to Pakistan in the form of a modern hospital and a university and said he would give the kind of leadership the country needed to go forward. Vice President Basit Irfan, Secretary-General Yasir Ali, Information Secretary Bilal Shah and Finance Secretary Nauman Shah also paid tributes to their leader. Welcoming the guests, Shafqat Chaudhry, president of SoundView Broadcasting and a philanthropist who hosted the gathering, said Pakistan was in dire straits, but he was confident that Imran Khan would pull it out of it.

Celebrated singer Amjad Hussain enthralled the audience with patriotic songs, with the crowd chanting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and ‘Imran Khan Zindabad’, while a local band rounded off the event playing popular songs.