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Imran Khan, the Pakistani incarnation of the global populist wave

The former captain of the national cricket team is the favorite in Pakistan's elections

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Imran Khan, the Pakistani incarnation of the global populist wave

"Prime Minister? Imran Khan. Prime Minister? Imran Khan. " The clamor of crowd that greets him in Raiwind, outside Lahore, invigorates legend of Pakistani cricket became political. After two decades campaigning against corruption and political dynasties in his country, leader of Movement for Justice (PTI acronym in Urdu) is convinced that his time has come. "As a good athlete, I go out to win," he said with a firmness that excites his supporters and worries his opponents.

His deep voice and his antisystem discourse do not disappoint those who have been waiting for almost four hours in an environment closer to a rock concert than that of an election rally. At 65 years, glamorous exathlete with a certain resemblance to Mick Jagger has managed to attract young people with his vision of a new Pakistan, free of corrupt politicians and respected in world. The potential is huge: almost half of 98.6 million of Pakistani registered to vote on Wednesday is under 35 years. The risk of letting m down, too, given populism of many of ir proposals.

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His formula to get country out of poverty seems to be simply to repatriate money that elites hide out of country. He wants Pakistan to be an "Islamic welfare state," but despite his declared admiration for Scandinavian model, flirtation of this Oxford graduate with fundamentalist clerics and his calls for dialogue with Taliban raises suspicion. "He's too tolerant of extremists," says a former fellow at prestigious Aitchison College in Lahore who now plays a rival match and qualifies him as "impulsive and daring."

Few took Khan seriously when he threw PTI in 1996. His resounding failure in elections of following year confirmed that re was little margin outside binomial Muslim League (PML) and Partido Popular (PPP). Even with leaders of both in exile in 2002, under General Musharraf's dictatorship, he achieved more than his seat. Aware of its scarce possibilities boycotted ballot boxes in 2008. Five years later re was a change.

The young Pakistanis, traditionally apatic, were shown for first time as a political force in elections of 2013. Disillusioned with march of ir country, y voted for party of Khan, whose sporting successes revived on YouTube were a source of pride vis-a-side with association with terrorism to which rest of world reduced m. It was not enough to break control of power of traditional parties. The PTI achieved 35 seats in front of 166 PML (in addition to Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, one of four autonomous regions of country).

Imran Khan raised 1992 Cricket World Cup trophy, which won Pakistan under his leadership in Melbourne, Australia. Afp

But Khan's goal was federal government and former captain of national cricket team was not going to give up. "Sport teaches you that life is not a straight line. You fit blows and learn from your mistakes, "he said. Perhaps that is why, and despite good omens of polls, he did not rely only on intention of voting. In a controversial decision, and probably detracted from sympathizers, he entered game to include in his lists "eligible": Landlords and feudal lords with control of thousands of votes in ir districts that guarantee ir choice whatever Acronyms under which y are presented.

That concession to political mud and widespread perception that army (which continues to handle levers of power) has been cheating on its behalf (from pressuring media to imprisoning its main rival, Nawaz Sharif of PML) have Overshadowed Khan's campaign. The charismatic leader has ignored this allegation as well as embarrassing revelations about his sexual promiscuity and unrecognized children, released in a controversial book by his second wife, Reham, with whom he was married for ten months.

The image of Playboy cultivated during his years as a successful and married athlete with British Goldsmith Jemima contrasts with profile of devout Muslim and philanthropist who tries to project since he entered politics. The couple, who divorced in 2004, had two children, Sulaiman Isa and Kasim. His recent wedding with his spiritual advisor, Bush Manika, is anor source of juicy gossip.

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