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