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. Nuzhat Aziz says:

    Sorry Jay, I don’t get your argument. First of all, I am not sure what you mean by the “amount of corruption has gone down”. I am not sure how you would describe the sugar scam, the cement scam, steel mills privitazation fiasco and of course the biggest scam of all; the AQ Khan scandal (the beginnings of which pre-dated Mush, but which in all likelihood had the blessings of the military).
    When we are berating the politicians, we forget that they came into power after 11 years of military rule (can you imagine the amount of decay they had to deal with?), and lasted for only 24 months plus at a time. Can anyone really undo the rot that had set in under zia’s rule in 24+ months, with the military continually breathing down the neck? Also, while we go on and on about the politicians corruption, how come the generals have never been held accountable?

    At this point, democarcy is the only viable system present ( not “Eastern” or “Western” democarcy, but just plain simple democarcy, where people actually have a stake in the system). If there is a workable alternative that you know of, please enlighten me.

  2. sabizak says:

    Typically, arrogantly Imran Khan. And he so puts me off with his views on women. Just for that one reason alone, I wouldn’t want to vote for him. He is more or less a beardless good looking MMA man.

  3. Jay says:

    We all want Pakistan to be a better place..its great that we are all so passionate about it.
    I really like Musharaf because I actually see stuff getting better (obviously not for everyone but for more people than before).
    My main issue with anyone new (be it Imran Khan or anyone) is it took Musharaf about 3 or 4 years to start improving the country. Lets say Musharaf left and Imran Khan came in…does Imran have what it takes to fight the corrupt forces and stick around long enough and actually improve stuff.
    At least Musharaf can always have the military take care of anything in his way (by the way; why doesnt he do this?)…who will be on Imran Khans side to help him out.
    Imran Khan wont even be able to get a PTCL phone line if he doesnt have the right support.
    I really think we need economic improvement before democracy but that just me (it worked in Korea and India at least).
    Maybe Imran really is smart; maybe he is just waiting for the most corrupt forces in Pakistani society to be removed then he will come in too push his agenda.

  4. fara says:

    ……when everyone (corrupt polticians and uniformed politicians) have utilised PAKISTAN at its full extent(snached away last penny and dumped them in westren banks)…so why not ONE CHANCE to Imran Khan….does it compulsory that one cant help out his country without being politicain…strange…for haevan’s sake Pakistan nothing left to lose…only dumb and deaf people are there… if you (Imran Khan) can provide them BASIC LIVING THINGS(JUST ROTI AND DRINKING WATER)..then

  5. Khalid_s says:

    I don’t understand. If not democracy, then what. Are we go ‘gaaye guzray’ that we cannot even decide for ourselves!!!!!!!

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