WASHINGTON - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran khan's huge rally in Lahore was featured in the American press, which especially highlighted the enthusiasm for the cricketer-turned-politician among the people jampacking the Minto Park.

‘Pakistani Cricket Star Tries Again to Turn Adulation Into Political Support’, read the headline of The New York dispatch, along with Imran Khan's photograph waving to the crowd.

An Associated Press of America dispatch, published in The Washington Post and a number of other newspapers said "The biggest wildcard is shaping up to be cricket legend Imran Khan, who rallied at least 150,000 flag-waving supporters..."

The American print and electronic media also reported the return from exile of former President Pervez Musharraf, but most said that he had little chance of success in the turbulent Pakistan politics.

Indeed, The Christian Science Monitor quoted Ikram Sehgal, an analyst, as saying that Musharraf would have a ‘minimal’ impact on the elections. "The insurgent politician capturing attention isn't Musharraf, but Imran Khan," the Monitor said in a dispatch from Karachi. According to Sehgal, “The two main parties [the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz] are worried about Imran Khan coming up in the stretch before the elections.”

He added: “At the end of the day, Musharraf’s supporters – with or without his consent – will end up supporting Imran Khan."

In its dispatch, the Times, reporting on Saturday's rally in Lahore, said, "Mr Khan, 60, who retains his youthful swagger and athletic physique, is particularly popular with young Pakistanis, who form the core of his support and make up approximately 40 per cent of the country’s registered voters. However, it was not clear how much of this adulation — which borders on the cultlike — would translate into electoral success. "On Saturday, the crowd erupted in an impassioned frenzy as pop stars took turns on the stage to sing between the political speeches. Young men and women sang along loudly, throwing their arms up in the air and waving party flags...

"Mr Khan outstrips his opponents in public popularity, but his party has won only one seat in Parliament since it was founded in 1996 with an aim to challenge entrenched politics and establish accountability and justice. He was elected to Parliament in 2002, but languished on the political sidelines for years before being catapulted to the political forefront in October 2012, when a spontaneous and enthusiastic public response to a rally in Lahore drew at least 100,000 people...

"Mr Khan’s populist slogans and antiwar statements have increased his appeal to voters unnerved by a spate of terrorist attacks and disillusioned by a crippled economy.

"The campaign kickoff is being seen as a bellwether of larger national political trends. Political analysts say that any electoral gains Mr Khan wins will eat into the political territory that has generally been considered Mr Sharif’s home base: Punjab..."

"But analysts see Mr Khan’s party as essentially a spoiler, saying that even if it siphons off votes from Mr Sharif’s party, it will not prevail in the general elections. The Pakistan Peoples Party will end up reaping the benefit..."

Leaders of Imran Khan’s party dismissed that notion. “There is an attempt to cut the importance and significance of PTI,” Hamid Khan, a prominent lawyer, was quoted as saying by the Times. In Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, he said, Imran Khan’s and Sharif’s parties will be the main competitors, and the Pakistan Peoples Party “is not figuring anywhere.”

The AP of America dispatch said, "After years of trying to gain a foothold in Pakistani politics, the shaggy-haired, ruggedly good-looking 60-year-old has finally elbowed his way into the big league. Casting himself as a populist anti-corruption crusader, he is seen as a threat to the two parties that have long dominated elections.

"Khan has almost mythical status in cricket-crazy Pakistan. He was the captain of the national team that won the 1992 World Cup — the only time the country has claimed the sport's highest prize — and polls show he's the nation's most popular politician by a wide margin.

"But it's uncertain how effective he will be in converting his personal appeal into votes for his party when Pakistan holds parliamentary elections on May 11 — the first transition between democratically elected governments in a country that has experienced three military coups.

"Much of Khan's support has come from young, middle-class Pakistanis in the country's major cities, a potentially influential group. Almost half of Pakistan's more than 80 million registered voters are under the age of 35, but the key question is whether Khan can get his young supporters to show up at the polling booth...

"Khan, one of the few Pakistani politicians with a squeaky-clean image, broke into the political mainstream in the past 18 months with a message that capitalizes on widespread discontent with the country's traditional politicians. Some are seen as being more interested in lining their pockets than dealing with pressing problems facing Pakistan, such as stuttering economic growth, pervasive energy shortages and deadly attacks by Islamist militants."