Karachi: Thousands of people, including women and children, on Sunday converged near the mausoleum of Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah for Imran Khan's massive "tsunami" rally seeking a "change" in the country.
   
The rally began with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party's leaders addressing the crowd gathered at the Bagh-e-Quaid, adjacent to the mausoleum of Jinnah.
   
'Peace in Karachi, a stable and progressive Pakistan' read a giant banner on centre stage. The rally lit up once Imran Khan entered the venue and went to the main stage to resounding cheers and slogans.
   
Every time cricketer-turned politician Imran waved back with a big smile to the sea of people carrying red and green party flags and many wearing caps, the crowd cheered with slogans 'Imran Khan Zindabad', 'Tehreek-e-Insaaf Zindabad'.
   
All roads leading to the Quaid-e-Azam park, the venue of the rally adjacent to the Jinnah's mausoleum, were jammed with buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles and pedestrians who were eager to reach the place.
   
Mindful of the response to Imran's call for Karachiites to attend the rally in large numbers and show their support for a change in the country and against corruption, the organisers had set up giant video screens outside the park for people who could not find a place inside.
   
Braving the warm weather people including families, women and children had started entering the venue since morning and even though the rally started late and Imran arrived at least three hours late it didn't dampen the spirits of the people.
   
"We are here because of Imran Khan. We believe he can make a better Pakistan and bring changes," shouted Maleeha, a hijab-clad woman who had come with her fiance to the rally.
   
Zainab, another young woman dressed in jeans and shirt, said many people now know that Imran Khan was the last hope for Pakistan. "We all believe only he can turn around this country and rid it of corruption and extremism. He can bring about better governance."
   
Just before the rally was to begin, a car mysteriously caught fire in a parking lot close to the venue leading to chaos and panic among the party workers and officials.
   
The car fitted with a CNG cylinder was parked in the parking lot near the Quaid-e-Azam mausoleum and caught fire all of a sudden after a short circuit, according to fire rescue officials. Nearby cars were moved immediately to avoid the fire from spreading and causing a major explosion.
   
Imran had visited the venue an hour prior to the incident to inspect the preparations for one of the most anticipated rallies in recent months, which is being dubbed by his party as a "tsunami".
   
Javed Hashmi, a senior politician and central leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) who joined Imran's party on Saturday, was given a standing ovation and cheered when he came on to the stage.
   
"Imran Khan, only he will bring the change," rang out the slogans throughout the rally.
   
People danced as Pakistan's national anthem was played after Imran's arrival at the venue and afterwards when Salman Ahmed of 'Junoon' fame sang his 'Jalzba e Junoon' song.
   
Imran, who had promised a big show, wearing shalwar kameez and black coat sat with other party leaders Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Jahangir Tareen, Mahmood Kasuri on the stage.
   
The organisers, with the assistance of administration, had set up special walkthrough security gates and body scanned each and every participant before they entered the venue.
   
The rally should go on till the night, party leader Imran Ismail said. "This rally is going to be bigger than the one we had at the Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore."

Agencies