Imran Khan-Ever the Lone Ranger

Posted on July 6, 2006
Filed Under >Fawad, People, Politics
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Guest Post by Fawad

Everyone seems to be talking about Imran Khan’s interview in the Sunday Observer (2 July, 2006).

It is interesting and well worth the read. The piece captures Imran’s essential persona; fiercely independent, consistently principled and completely committed but a little self-righteous and indeed somewhat politically naive.

It has to be said that, despite his muddle-headed ‘spirituality’ that sometimes brings him close to unsavory elements like the Jamaat-e-Islami, his ideas for Pakistan’s political system are fundamentally sound.

He is most insistent on an independent judiciary, election commission and accountability bureau; all institutions whose strengthening is critical for Pakistan’s democratic advancement. Despite his early support for Musharraf, he is now vehemently opposed to military’s role in government. In Pakistan, there is almost no disagreement in thinking circles now that as long as military remains the dominant force on the Pakistani political scene, democracy has little chance of taking root.

Imran’s instincts in the arena of foreign policy are reflexively anti-western and many times flawed. Of course, there is plenty wrong with Musharraf’s self-preserving genuflection to the West and a harder Pakistani line toward the west if it is in its national interest (such as free trade agreements, opposition to the roughshod execution of the ‘war on terror’ etc.) is entirely appropriate. However, Imran’s public utterances extolling local virtues and criticisms of ‘kala sahibs’ seem to me a raw reflection of his personal evolution from a playboy to a politician and not any well thought out views about the virtuous life or a hard-headed understanding of foreign policy goals and objectives.

Some excerpts from the interview:

On his farmhouse outside Islamabad: “This place was just a jungle area when I found it… It was very cheap… I sold my London flat to buy this whole place and build this house… I have fruit trees. Cows for fresh milk, yoghurt. My own wheat. I’m basically self-sufficient. I have made my boys a little cricket ground.

On elections: “It is not easy to win against a military dictator in an election that is being run by the security services… My contention now is that there is no way anyone should fight an election while Musharraf is in charge… Therefore I will be out on the streets beginning in September against him. It is the only way. I am preparing my party for a street movement. What we are hoping is that the other parties will come out too.”

On his ‘political naiveity’: “A lot of people here in the press call me naive… Musharraf told them I was his prime ministerial candidate in 2002 but had turned him down, I was too full of myself. He said I was a terrorist without a beard. But I would have failed if I had joined them. Look at the way they live: big palaces, Lear jets. People here have no drinking water; 70 per cent of the schools are closed in my constituency. But I’m more hopeful than ever. One of the reasons I was a successful cricketer was I felt nothing was impossible. I never signed more than a one-year contract, because I always thought I would be better the next year. I feel that now, too.”

On ‘extremists’ and democracy: “The pseudo-liberals here will tell the West: save us or the mullahs are coming; that is not the problem. You will have no problem with extremists in Pakistan if you have democracy.”

On spirituality: “Spirituality does two things for you. One, you are forced to become more selfless, two, you trust to providence. The opposite of a spiritual man is a materialist. If I was a materialist I would be making lots of money doing endorsements, doing cricket commentary. I have no interest in that.”

On marraige and divorce: “I decided I would never marry while I was playing cricket. I watched other cricketers and saw the wives going through a torrid time, and the children, which was even worse. When I had my children I was completely hands on…. I always thought I would marry a Pakistani girl just because it would be so difficult for a girl to come here. To try to balance everything was certainly the hardest thing I ever did. The hospital opened, I was involved in politics and then kids came. I had known pressure on the cricket field, but that sort of pressure was very new to me. And though she tried for a long time, it was very difficult for Jemima to live that life… For one-and-a-half years she was in England and I was here. She felt she could not live here, there was increasing difficulty, and I could not be anywhere but here. I am rooted to a cause. I hated the divorce and the last thing I wanted was for my children to grow up without me. I would like the boys to be Pakistani as much as they are English. And they are Muslims; I take them to Friday prayers as often as I can…. There is never really a positive side to these things but, if there is, at least being alone allows me to be more fearless…. My marriage was tough, but I still think the highs I got in marriage were much greater than those I got as a bachelor.” [Would he like to marry again?]: “One day, but not now.”

Fawad is based in California and manages the blog ‘Moments of Tranquility,’ where a version of this was first posted.

13 responses to “Imran Khan-Ever the Lone Ranger”

  1. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    @ Fawad,

    Imran, as a new-comer in Politics, has sufficiently
    grasped what are these political parties around him,
    or what are those “corrupt ideologies”!! and what
    happened to that “Roti Kapra aur Makan” sort of
    illusions and cheatings. He must look for alliances
    solid, sound with a genuine structural Democracy,
    the ideal is JAMAAT-E-ISLAMI an excellent example
    of current exigences of “availability “. But Imran
    should first,understand by studying The Jamaat, not
    paying any attention to all other syasi
    “Chapparqanatiays” ( introducing a new term)

  2. jyoti says:

    @Jay. I think India has become strong economically beacuse of its democracy. Despite horrible levels of corruption in politics. I also belive that a nation’s progress depends on its leaders. Rajeev Gandhi brought the computer revolution in India and Sonia Gandhi brought back honesty and integrity in Indian politics. Presently, we have a scientist-president, a PM who ealrier had been Finance Minister and a leader of the biggest party, Congress who believes in respecting leaders of oppostion. We have a crop of young politicians like Sachin Pilot(26) and Rahul Gandhiwho have a positive outlook and are dedicated to their nation.There are many others like them.
    I believe that it’s also the duty of common people to do whatever they can do, in whatever way, to work for their country. If you could see the latest two Hindi movies that have been biggest hits among the young geneartion in India, you’ll find that they are related to freedom fighters. “Rang De Basanti” and “Lage Raho Munnabhai”.Both the movies remind us our duty to our nation.I think that the makers of these movies have done their duty to the nation by doing what they do best.
    Maybe, we suffer when we leave everything to politicians forgetting that we the people are real creators of our nation.

  3. Jay says:

    Nuzhat I am 27 and have only been in Pakistan for the last 4 years..I dont know what happened under Zia.
    I only know about my experience here in Pakistan; I started a software company and I have had to deal with a lot of paying of bribes (i hate doing that by the way)…I wonder if I did this business 10 years ago would it have even been possible to start such a business in PK. I figure its better to pay a bribe then not be able to start anything at all.
    Ya its gonna be tough no matter who is in charge whether Imran Khan or Musharaf or Benezir or Sharif. I doubt anyone else has a chance at the top spot.
    I think Imran Khan is a guy who is not stupid he must know what he is doing if he refuses to be Musharafs puppet. I really think he will not pop his headup to much in the near future but maybe later he will find a way to take charge and change things for the better.
    You are right about the whole accountability. Unfortunatly the military is simply not accountable no anyone; even themselves.
    Yes we do have lots of scandals going on….but at least things look like they are getting better.
    For example the PK Steel Mill is not going to be given away at scrap price if the Supreme Court has anything to do with it.
    Lets do our part to improve PK…and the hell with these politicians.

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