Imran Khan wants to create a 'New Pakistan,' many fear more of the same

Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician and head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan gestures as he delivers a speech during a political campaign rally, in Islamabad, on July 21, 2018.

(CNN)Former international cricket star and socialite Imran Khan is confident that a victory in Pakistan's general elections on Wednesday will kick start a revolution for a country bedeviled by corruption and insecurity.

But while several polls put Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, or Pakistan Justice Movement) marginally ahead -- the result, his rivals allege, of covert support from the country's powerful military establishment -- other surveys suggest the result is too close to call.
Analysts are also divided over whether a win for Khan's PTI would actually be that substantially different to a return to power for its chief rival, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the party of disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Many experts contend that it will be business as usual whoever wins the election, with the military -- which has ruled the country directly or indirectly for much of its 71-year history -- remaining Pakistan's de facto ruler.
    The three leading candidates in Pakistan's general election: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (PPP), Shahbaz Sharif (PML-N), and Imran Khan (PTI).

    Close race

    Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the US-based Wilson Center, said that the military remains "very much ensconced" at the upper echelons of power in Pakistan.
    "It remains powerful and popular, even amid allegations of election meddling, and the most likely election outcome -- a weak coalition government -- is the military's best-case scenario," he said.
    This weeks vote comes amid growing fears of renewed political instability in Pakistan as it faces a multi-billion dollar debt crisis and tilts away from the West towards China, which has granted it billions of dollars in expensive loans for infrastructure projects.
    The polls have been overshadowed by terrorist attacks, hundreds of arrests and accusations of widespread interference by the military. They have also seen a massive crackdown on the media and controversy over militant groups' electoral participation.