LAHORE - When Imran Khan held his first major public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan on October 30, his political rivals accused that the ‘establishment’ had arranged and funded the show.

They said the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf didn’t have enough popular support and, hence, could not bring tens of thousands of participants from all corners of Punjab. The PTI rejected such assertions as propaganda and said the ‘tsunami’ Imran Khan is talking about will soon be seen intensifying across the country.  Karachi’s public meeting on Sunday vindicated the claim. Tens of thousands of people turned up in response to the call given by the cricketer-turned-politician. A charged and responsive crowd could be seen on all TV channels which were telecasting the event live.

In a way the Karachi meeting was bigger than the one in Lahore. The reason is that Lahore, which has a population of some eight million, is Imran Khan’s own city.

But the PTI chairman, in political terms, is a ‘stranger’ to Karachi. The city of some 20 million people belongs mainly to the MQM and the PPP. The MQM has close to three dozen seats of the Sindh Assembly, followed by half a dozen of the PPP and two of the Awami National Party.

Of the National Assembly seats, 17 belong to the MQM and three to the PPP.

The PTI, like elsewhere in the country, doesn’t have even a token representation in the Sindh Assembly.

In such a situation it could not expect an encouraging response from what is the country’s biggest city.  However, Sunday’s public meeting was a spectacular victory. This shows that the party may get a similar unexpected response in the elections whenever they are held.

The only likely explanation of the turnout is that with the passage of time people are getting attracted to the PTI. The younger generation is fascinated by the former cricket hero and turned up in large numbers to see him and listen to his ideas.   

Everyone knows that after the Lahore rally, a number of heavyweights have also joined the PTI. They include:  Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, Jehangir Tareen and Ishaq Khakwani. (Another former foreign minister Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali also joined the PTI on Sunday and an announcement in this regard was made by Imran Khan himself). Such an influx also helps change people’s minds.

The party has now started preparing itself for the next elections. Those convinced that the future belongs to this party are joining it.

Imran Khan will now change the direction of the tsunami. His next public meeting will be held in Quetta on March 23.

The PTI chief did well by not speaking against the MQM or any other party. He tried to win the hearts and minds of all communities in Karachi by presenting the highlights of his manifesto.  

He pledged to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state, a commitment lauded by all participants.

He assured his supporters that the PTI’s policies would change the destiny of the country and its people.

Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi honoured his commitment he had made a few weeks ago. He had alleged that the nuclear programme of Pakistan is not safe at the hands of President Zardari, and promised that he would explain the reasons on December 25.

Qureshi said yesterday the nuclear assets face no physical threat because of the five-layer security system. But, he said, the threat may come from the policy controllers and those who take decisions about policy options.

“The decision makers should be such people whose patriotism is above board”.

Criticizing President Zardari for his offer to India for a no-first nuclear strike agreement, the former foreign minister said if such an approach was thrust upon the nation, Pakistan’s minimum credible nuclear deterrence assertion would become irrelevant.

He argued that Pakistan cannot compete with India in conventional weapons. In such a situation it has to rely more on its nuclear capability. But if somebody is willing to compromise this capability, he will be trying to undermine national security.