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.

India Today - - LEISURE - By M. J. Ak­bar

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.

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