“I WILL LEAD THE CHANGE IN PAK­ISTAN” – IM­RAN KHAN

Society - - CONTENTS - By Sriv­idya Menon

From our ar­chives, we have the long­est run­ning heart­throb of Pak­istan, and now its PM, Im­ran Khan. Read on to find out what he said from this April 2012 in­ter­view that came true…

Im­ran Khan’s as­pi­ra­tion of be­com­ing Pak­istan’s Prime Min­is­ter has fi­nally seen the light of the day. How­ever, ahead of the assem­bly elec­tions in 2013, the now PM of Pak­istan had spo­ken to So­ci­ety about chang­ing the des­tiny of Pak­istan if he comes to power. He had lost the po­lit­i­cal battle then, but in a time warp of sorts, his words from this April 2012 in­ter­view come back to life Would the hands that lifted the ’92 Cricket World Cup rock Pak­istan’s assem­bly elec­tions? Im­ran Khan, the pin-up boy-turned-so­cial worker-turned-politi­cian from Pak­istan is on a se­ri­ous im­age makeover. Shoot­ing fire balls as usual, in a de­tailed in­ter­view, he talks of why only he and his party can change Pak­istan’s des­tiny

His procla­ma­tions carry a very in­ter­est­ing tone. They are filled with state­ments such as, ‘If people trust you’ or ‘when we are in power’, de­not­ing a man cer­tain of his fu­ture, some­one who be­lieves he is the next hope, des­tined for a change. At­test him as a prob­a­ble ve­hi­cle for a soft revolution in Pak­istan or just an­other hot headed Pathan hav­ing his time rid­ing through the po­lit­i­cal mess in a coun­try hun­gry for change. But, we can’t re­ally blame him for his pro­nounce­ments. His past score­card shows

an in­nings of a dif­fer­ent kind. Yes, Im­ran Khan is ca­pa­ble of change. The ques­tion how­ever is whether that cer­tain change will be in Pak­istan’s po­lit­i­cal arena this time. There are very few people from our neigh­bour­ing coun­try who make it to the head­lines for the right rea­sons. Im­ran Khan sadly isn’t one of them. His an­tics, since his time as a dash­ing young bloke of 19, mak­ing a de­but in in­ter­na­tional test cricket against Eng­land in Birm­ing­ham, have al­ways pre­ceded him. He did not go un­no­ticed in the plush Eng­land so­ci­ety as well. He was no­to­ri­ous for his one-night stands at Annabel’s and Tramps clubs in Lon­don and fea­tur­ing ex­ten­sively in Night Demp­ster’s gos­sip col­umns for spend­ing the nights with a se­ries of English damsels. That in­cluded in­dus­tri­al­ist, Lord White’s daugh­ter, Sita White, so­cialites Su­san­nah Con­stan­tine, Lady Liza Camp­bell and Emma Sergeant, an artist. A scorned White had even claimed her daugh­ter Tyr­ian was fa­thered by Im­ran and was plan­ning to give her his sur­name. The no­to­ri­ety con­tin­ued into his cricket world as well. Ball tam­per­ing con­fes­sions changed into claims of be­ing mis­quoted by an In­dian mag­a­zine when he was charged with li­bel ac­tion by two well-known English crick­eters, Ian Botham and Al­lan Lamb. Khan won the case, but his ball tam­per­ing rep­u­ta­tion still makes the rounds. Then was his in­fa­mous mar­riage to the English so­cialite of Jewish an­ces­try, Jemima Gold­smith. It ended af­ter nine years of con­tin­u­ous press cov­er­age, with scores of ram­pant ru­mours. How­ever, Im­ran floated the po­lit­i­cal party Pak­istan Tehreek-e-In­saf (PTI) dur­ing that pe­riod and even un­suc­cess­fully con­tested the ’97 assem­bly elec­tions. Pervez Mushar­raf’s mil­i­tary coup found staunch sup­port from Khan who claims that he be­lieved the Gen­eral could have changed the cor­rup­tion statis­tics in Pak­istan for the bet­ter. Read later about what hap­pened to their as­so­ci­a­tion. How­ever, this is the new era and in Im­ran’s words, ‘the people of Pak­istan are ready to take their des­tiny into their own hands’. But, ac­cord­ing to him, his own des­tiny to be the next Prime Min­is­ter of Pak­istan seems cer­tain. Nat­u­rally, you have crit­ics call him a loose talker and an in­ex­pe­ri­enced politi­cian fir­ing away elab­o­rate po­lit­i­cal plans that look good only in the­ory. Af­ter all, you don’t have to be a cynic to doubt some­one claim­ing to wipe out cor­rup­tion in 100 days from a coun­try deeply em­broiled in it. Agreed, it’s

typ­i­cal politi­cian talk, but Im­ran Khan is not just an­other am­bi­tious contender for Prime Min­is­ter­ship in the fray. Widely known to be men­tored by Gen­eral Hamid Gul, the PTI has the very brawny Pak­istani mil­i­tary back­ing it. That, added to the pop­u­lar­ity this 59-year-old holds to­day, his grand am­bi­tions can no longer be rub­bished away so eas­ily. Be­sides, Im­ran has his rep­u­ta­tion of a fighter to come to his res­cue. The crick­et­ing world has wit­nessed his strug­gle turn into sheer mag­nif­i­cence dur­ing the ’ 92 World Cup start­ing with Pak­istan’s warm-up match against the much feared West Indies team. In Khan’s book, Pak­istan: A Per­sonal His­tory, he says he was in­jured with a rup­tured car­ti­lage and with cor­ti­sone shots on his shoul­der, he walked out to open against the West Indies’ famed fast bowl­ing at­tack, wear­ing bat­ting pads, a floppy hat and an am­bu­lance out­side, just in case. But, the am­bu­lance was sent back and the rest is im­printed in golden words in the books of the other­wise rather tainted crick­et­ing his­tory of the books of the other­wise rather tainted crick­et­ing his­tory of Pak­istan. Im­ran Khan paid the price for the World Cup vic­tory with a pain for the next six months that was too se­vere to even al­low the champ to lift a glass of wa­ter. Post re­tire­ment, he thanks his faith to have ‘lib­er­ated him from fears’. So, af­ter lead­ing the na­tional cricket team, so­cial work was the an­swer. Khan was be­hind the in­cep­tion of Na­mal Col­lege in Mian­wali, Pun­jab, an as­so­ciate col­lege of the Univer­sity of Brad­ford where Khan is a Chan­cel­lor. Mian­wali has one of the poor­est em­ploy­ment rates in Pun­jab, notic­ing which, Khan de­cided to es­tab­lish the univer­sity there. His so­cial work how­ever has rea­sons more than faith be­hind it. Com­mem­o­rat­ing Shaukat Khanum, Khan’s late mother, who died of can­cer, was the rea­son be­hind his found­ing the char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion, pro­vid­ing free care for 75 per cent of its pa­tients. With so many feath­ers in his cap, Khan is nat­u­rally putting his so­cial worker cum World Cup win­ner sta­tus to use. The on­go­ing court pro­ceed­ings against the coun­try’s Prime Min­is­ter, Yousuf Raza Gi­lani, will de­cide Pak­istan’s next assem­bly elec­tions, which in turn, will de­cide Khan’s po­lit­i­cal stand­ing. But, the heart­throb con­tin­ues to add drama. Khan, much to the dis­ap­proval of his party, has boy­cotted the by-elec­tions cit­ing bo­gus reg­is­tered elec­toral votes. Tak­ing risks might be reg­u­lar for Khan, but it’s not a bats­man on the other side of the pitch. A cer­tain Pak­istani youth work­ing for the gov­ern­ment is cyn­i­cal about Khan’s win, say­ing Khan is an­other pass­ing fad. But, polls in­di­cate some­thing else. Pop­u­lar opin­ion rests that from one house­hold, the fa­ther may be­long to any party, but his wife and chil­dren go to the PTI. The rea­son be­hind it is not too am­bigu­ous. Maybe, his grand procla­ma­tions only add to that inim­itable charm. Khan blast­ing politi­cians on screen still gar­ners TRP’s and he makes for a very hand­some mag­a­zine cover. He knows ex­actly how it works. An Aus­tralian pa­per re­ports ru­mours of Khan greet­ing a fe­male jour­nal­ist in just a pair of brief run­ning shorts and hold­ing an­other in­ter­view in his bed­room. That is not the only wor­ri­some part about the Khan. His party is as­so­ci­ated with Difa-e-Pak­istan, a union of ex­trem­ist groups and Gen­eral Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief cred­ited to have a prom­i­nent role in the emer­gence of the Tal­iban. Whether they shape Khan’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer or not is yet to be seen. Also to be seen is whether Khan re­ally sweeps away the polls or he re­mains a Mr 10 per cent. His words in­di­cate the former. Read those words as he ex­clu­sively an­swers ques­tions about pol­i­tics, the PTI and be­ing the na­tion’s only hope.

Start­ing with your po­lit­i­cal party, what does your es­tab­lish­ment, Pak­istan Tehreek-e-In­saf stand for?

Ide­o­log­i­cally, the PTI is a move­ment for so­cial change aimed at jus­tice for all through mass mo­bil­i­sa­tion. The cen­tral ob­jec­tive of the party is to end the po­lit­i­cal hege­mony of sta­tus quo forces and em­power the people of Pak­istan. How­ever, our party re­alises that an eco­nomic up­lift of the people of Pak­istan is im­per­a­tive for po­lit­i­cal em­pow­er­ment. Re­form­ing the ju­di­cial sys­tem of the coun­try is one of the party’s core ob­jec­tives be­cause we be­lieve that a strong trans­par­ent and ac­ces­si­ble ju­di­cial sys­tem is the ut­most ne­ces­sity of our so­ci­ety. Un­for­tu­nately in Pak­istan, a ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion does not have ac­cess to the ju­di­cial sys­tem and is at the mercy of the pow­er­ful forces of the sta­tus quo. The PTI is striv­ing for an in­dis­crim­i­nate rule of law where people are not de­nied jus­tice on the ba­sis of their so­cio-eco­nomic back­grounds. It is time the people of Pak­istan lived know­ing that their rights shall be pro­tected by the state. Re­li­gious ex­trem­ism, sec­tar­i­an­ism, amongst oth­ers, is eat­ing away the fab­ric of our coun­try, one that was formed on unity—we now stand di­vided.

You say you wish to es­tab­lish gen­uine democ­racy within the frame­work of Is­lamic val­ues, how dif­fi­cult or pos­si­ble is that?

Noth­ing re­mains dif­fi­cult when one sets his goals and priorities right. Whether one is able to trans­form one’s goal into re­al­ity is some­thing I have left up to God. I work like a sol­dier work­ing to­wards a tar­get, or like a bowler bowl­ing to get wick­ets. There cer­tainly are chal­lenges; the big­gest of them all is to unite the Pak­ista­nis. Once that is achieved, true

democ­racy within the frame­work would not seem im­pos­si­ble.

To­day, what does Pak­istan need with re­spect to eco­nomic and wel­fare growth?

First and fore­most, we need to move to­wards self-reliance through a com­plete over­haul of the rev­enue gen­er­a­tion sys­tem. The cur­rent sys­tem is highly in­ef­fi­cient and plagued by mas­sive cor­rup­tion. Re­sul­tantly, Pak­istan has one of the low­est tax-GDP ra­tios in the world. People pre­fer do­nat­ing to char­i­ta­ble in­sti­tu­tions rather than pay­ing taxes which is clearly re­flec­tive of lack of trust in the state of Pak­istan. So, our pri­or­ity will be to re­store people’s trust in the state of Pak­istan through across the board ac­count­abil­ity and un­ques­tion­able trans­parency in spend­ing tax payer’s money. Sec­ondly, we have re­cently held a com­pre­hen­sive pol­icy pre­sen­ta­tion to deal with the wors­en­ing en­ergy cri­sis of the coun­try.

You have heav­ily crit­i­cised the cur­rent Pak­istan gov­ern­ment’s re­la­tion­ship with US…

Well, they call it ‘strate­gic part­ner­ship’, but it’s noth­ing more than a trans­ac­tional re­la­tion­ship. Un­for­tu­nately, our lead­ers have made out for­eign pol­icy sub­servient to the in­ter­est of the US, com­pro­mis­ing on our own na­tional in­ter­ests in the process. We must for­mu­late an in­de­pen­dent for­eign pol­icy which fur­thers our na­tional in­ter­ests rather than the in­ter­est of cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als.

You have not been kind in your views on the cur­rent Pak­istani po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship as well.

The cur­rent po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship is a part and par­cel of the sta­tus quo. They are united in pro­tect­ing the preva­lent cor­rupt sys­tem be­cause their stakes lie in this sys­tem. Their par­ties are based on pol­i­tics of family dy­nas­ties, nepo­tism and cor­rup­tion. They are off­shoots of a sham democ­racy with no in­ten­tion of fur­ther­ing the in­ter­ests of the people of Pak­istan. Power deals are ne­go­ti­ated in palaces abroad with com­plete dis­re­gard to the wishes of the people of Pak­istan. They will throw all kinds of ob­sta­cles in our way be­cause they are aware that the party is the only gen­uine anti sta­tus quo po­lit­i­cal force in the coun­try.

The Me­mogate scam talks about the Pak­istan gov­ern­ment ask­ing for Amer­i­can as­sis­tance fear­ing a mil­i­tary coup. What do you have to say about it?

I be­lieve that the Me­mogate has ex­posed the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship of Pak­istan. It proves that the in­di­vid­u­als hold­ing the high­est po­lit­i­cal of­fices do not have po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy. This is a lead­er­ship im­posed on the people of Pak­istan at the be­hest of the pre­vi­ous US ad­min­is­tra­tion. Con­doleezza Rice, the former US Sec­re­tary of State has ad­mit­ted in her book that the US ne­go­ti­ated a po­lit­i­cal deal in­volv­ing the Pak­istan People’s Party (PPP) and the former pres­i­dent Mushar­raf which led to the with­drawal of se­ri­ous cor­rup­tion cases un­der the un­con­sti­tu­tional Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Or­di­nance. There­fore, it is ev­i­dent that the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship lacks the po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy

and moral au­thor­ity to take key de­ci­sions on for­eign pol­icy. Also, it goes on to prove that the in­cum­bent po­lit­i­cal regime does not be­lieve that it is ac­count­able to the people of Pak­istan, pre­fer­ring to an­swer to and seek help from high-ups in the US ad­min­is­tra­tion.

So are you in favour of Pak­istan dis­tanc­ing it­self from the US?

Pak­istan needs to dis­tance it­self from the war that it is fight­ing on be­half of the US. This part­ner­ship has worked to the detri­ment of Pak­istan. The ter­ror­ism chal­lenge we face is largely be­cause of Pak­istan be­com­ing a part of Amer­ica’s war in Afghanistan. I think the pol­icy mak­ers in the US have also re­alised that they are fight­ing a war with no end in sight and if they want a peace­ful, re­spect­ful re­treat from the re­gion, we will be will­ing to co­op­er­ate. Our party wants cordial re­la­tions with every na­tion of the world. There are and will be is­sues; how­ever, we be­lieve that all is­sues should be re­solved through po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue.

As a crick­et­ing leg­end, you have al­ways been in the news for your sports ca­reer, per­sonal life and to­day, it is for your po­lit­i­cal cru­sade. Has be­ing in the me­dia helped your pop­u­lar­ity with the pub­lic in Pak­istan?

One can­not deny the power of the me­dia and I have re­mained in the lime­light since I was a teenager. The me­dia has cer­tainly played a vi­tal role in highlighting my achieve­ments and en­abling me to con­vey my mes­sage to the people of Pak­istan. To­day, we have an in­de­pen­dent and vi­brant me­dia in Pak­istan which is play­ing an ex­tremely pos­i­tive role in ed­u­cat­ing the masses of the coun­try and yes, that has cer­tainly helped the rise of my party in Pak­istan.

You sup­ported his coup. But to­day, if in power, would Mushar­raf be your ally once again?

There is no pos­si­bil­ity of any al­liance with Mushar­raf. Yes, we did sup­port him in the be­gin­ning but soon re­alised that he was not com­mit­ted to the re­forms he had promised and was only in­ter­ested in per­pet­u­at­ing his role. He also had no re­spect for na­tional in­sti­tu­tions like the ju­di­ciary. My party vo­cif­er­ously opposed him and would have no truck with him in the fu­ture.

Your party stands for anti-cor­rup­tion. What is the cur­rent state in Pak­istan and how do you think you can counter that?

Cor­rup­tion in Pak­istan has al­ways been a ma­jor im­ped­i­ment of the progress of the coun­try. How­ever, un­der the cur­rent regime, cor­rup­tion has reached unimag­in­able lev­els. Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional, Pak­istan has re­ported cor­rup­tion of Rs 8500 bil­lion (PKR) dur­ing the ten­ure of the in­cum­bent gov­ern­ment. There are a num­ber of graft cases un­der trial at the apex court al­leg­ing in­volve­ment of the sit­ting Prime Min­is­ter. Fur­ther­more, the Supreme Court of Pak­istan has al­ready ex­pressed lack of con­fi­dence in the cur­rent gov­ern­ment as far as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of cor­rup­tion cases is con­cerned. The Prime Min­is­ter is fac­ing con­tempt of court charges for non-com­pli­ance of the Supreme Court or­ders in order to pro­tect Pres­i­dent Zar­dari from fac­ing trial in the Swiss Courts. On the other hand, there are nu­mer­ous cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions against the leader (and his family) of the so called ‘ma­jor op­po­si­tion party’. To say the least, the sit­u­a­tion is alarm­ing as it is ev­i­dent that wide spread cor­rup­tion in the coun­try has pa­tron­age of

the high­est po­lit­i­cal of­fices. More­over, the two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties have col­luded to avoid any leg­is­la­tion for ef­fec­tive ac­count­abil­ity to en­sure ef­fi­cient cor­rup­tion without any le­gal has­sles. Now com­ing to how can we counter cor­rup­tion in the coun­try, I be­lieve that ac­count­abil­ity be­gins from one­self. The moral au­thor­ity re­quired to counter cor­rup­tion is de­rived from hold­ing your­self ac­count­able first. I have al­ready ini­ti­ated the process by pre­sent­ing the doc­u­men­ta­tion of all of my as­sets along with my sources of in­come in front of the me­dia. The lead­ers of all other po­lit­i­cal par­ties must do the same, but I don’t ex­pect them to do that as the top lead­er­ship of the two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties is in fact the most cor­rupt of the lot.

And what about your views on Pak­istan’ s re­la­tions with In­dia? Do you think Rahul Gandhi would make a bet­ter PM than Man­mo­han Singh?

It is not up to me or the people of Pak­istan to de­cide who is the bet­ter choice for the Prime Min­is­ter’s slot in In­dia. The coun­try is the largest democ­racy in the world, and I be­lieve that the demo­cratic pop­u­lace of In­dia will make the best choice for the coun­try. I hope that who­ever comes to power un­der­stands the sen­si­tive na­ture of the sit­u­a­tion in the re­gion. I think there is a re­al­i­sa­tion on both sides of the bor­der that Indo-Pak re­la­tions can­not con­tinue as a zero sum game and that there are var­i­ous av­enues which can be ex­plored to trans­form this re­la­tion­ship into one which is mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial. We be­lieve in two tracks on which this re­la­tion­ship should pro­ceed. One is, since is­sues like Kash­mir can­not be put on the back­burner, se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal ef­fort should be made to re­solve them and a sec­ond track, where ex­pan­sion in trade, cul­tural, sport­ing and people-to-people con­tacts should be pur­sued. How­ever, both coun­tries should pri­ori­tise en­gage­ment on most con­tentious is­sues, in­clud­ing Kash­mir, Si­achen and the wa­ter dis­putes.

Do you think Pak­istan needs a morale boost? And, is a change of the cur­rent gov­er­nance sys­tem an an­swer for the same?

A change of the cur­rent gov­er­nance sys­tem is not the issue in en­tirety. The problem is ide­o­log­i­cal. Pak­istan needs to trans­form into the coun­try en­vi­sioned by Jin­nah and Iqbal. Yes, to work to­wards that vi­sion re­quires a lot of mo­ti­va­tion, but I be­lieve that the PTI has al­ready pro­vided the plat­form for the people of Pak­istan to trans­late their an­guish against the sta­tus quo forces into mo­ti­va­tion to change Pak­istan. Our ral­lies in La­hore and Karachi were clear that the people of Pak­istan are ready to take their des­tiny into their own hands. So, the mo­ti­va­tion is there, the chal­lenge is to chan­nelise it through an or­gan­ised po­lit­i­cal plat­form.

You are dubbed as Pak­istan’s only hope. How would you go about ful­fill­ing that ti­tle?

I would al­ways strive to live up to those ex­pec­ta­tions. So far in my life, I have not let the people of Pak­istan down, be it lead­ing Pak­istan to the World Cup glory, build­ing the first in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­cred­ited univer­sity in a ru­ral area or the big­gest char­i­ta­ble can­cer hos­pi­tal, not only in the coun­try, but any­where in the world. As far as my po­lit­i­cal strug­gle is con­cerned, I have faith in the cause of the PTI and I be­lieve that the people of Pak­istan have faith in me and the PTI. I am con­fi­dent that I will lead the change which will be driven by the people of Pak­istan.

...with former wife Jemima Gold­smith

Sita White with Tyr­ian

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