A DREAM HAS NOTI
The story of how a big boy who also played at night grew up to become man of destiny. The odds are good that Imran Khan could lead his country’s government in 2013.
Between Oxbridge and partridge, Imran Khan could have lived happily ever after, milking the first and shooting the second, a Lord of Swing wafting on privileges due to a legitimate national hero who brought home the World Cup in 1992. He could have taken the soft route to power. Zia ul Haq invited him to join his Cabinet. Imran refused, a singularly sensible decision, not least because the fundamentalist dictator was dead within a few weeks of his offer. Instead, Imran chose to test his commitment and fortitude in the deadly chaos of Pakistan’s electoral politics. This book is the story of how a big boy who also played at night grew up to become Man of Destiny. The odds are good that he could lead his country’s government in 2013.
You cannot be a serious candidate for the White House without an autobiography on the store shelves. No such intellectual strain is demanded of Pakistan’s aspirants. Long-term despots like Ayub Khan and Pervez Musharraf preferred to publish after being booed out of office, when they were finally able to sort out the difference between friends and masters. The third general who ruled for a decade, and could possibly thereby deserve the adjective decadent, Zia-ulHaq, was prevented from literary endeavour due to a sudden recall by the Almighty. Benazir Bhutto patched together something in exile, but it was only an abject plea to Washington for help on grounds of gender affirmation in an “Islamic” world overburdened with burqas. So Imran’s effort is as rare as it is welcome.
It is also sensationally sincere. Any Pakistani politician would count the votes before expressing such public disdain for Saudi-sponsored wahabi brand of Islamisation. It is easier, in the political calculus, to rage at American drones: Imran is livid at Bush’s “insane” war on terror, which has “decimated two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, and brought a third, Pakistan, almost to the verge of collapse”. But it needs confidence, in oneself and one’s faith, to take on hard-line clergy. Imran has never disguised his strong commitment to Islam. He prays in the congregation of his local mosque, along with his son. At one point his close friend, the irreverent Yousaf Salahuddin, grandson of the poet Iqbal and inheritor of a splendid haveli in Lahore, began to wonder if Imran would go the way of Fazal Mahmood, the pin-up Pakistan cricket captain who grew a long beard and turned to God. But Imran has never confused religion with religiosity. He has become the face and voice of an emerging Pakistan that is as tired of humbug clerics as it is of an American war that seems to have lost all purpose except the propagation of time lines for domestic reasons.
I hope Imran’s sincerity survives his upward mobility; candour is considered bad manners in politics. Many of his peers, particularly in media, with a familiar and caustic cynicism, have labelled Imran stupid because he is transparent. He is caricatured as “Im the Dim” by those who are not always sure about the difference between wit and twit. Imran does open himself up to intellectual disdain when he describes his faith in clairvoyants, particularly those who foresaw him as saviour of his country. He was once as skeptical about them as any of the party crowd. But in 1987, after he had retired from cricket and was on a shooting trip north of Lahore, he met a village pir called Baba Chala, with piercing eyes and happy face, who told him he would return to cricket, and informed Imran’s hunting companion Mohammed Siddique exactly how and to what extent he was being defrauded in a business deal. The next year Imran met Mian Bashir, “the single most powerful spiritual influence on me” and the man who would “completely change my direction in life”. Bashir died in 2005, still a poor man, so there is no chance that he will influence policy if Imran is sworn in. Another
IMRAN DOES NOT GIVE HIS CRITICS THE PLEASURE OF REVENGE; HE IGNORES THEM WITH AN ARISTOCRATIC HAUTEUR THAT DOUBTLESS DOUBLES THEIR RAGE.
PAKISTAN: A PERSONAL HISTORY
By Imran Khan Bantam Press Price: RS 599 Pages: 392
BETWEEN THE COVERS The legendary cricketer-turned-politician puts his own story in the larger narrative of his country’s political evolution. His track record in politics would have destroyed anyone with less confidence.