Imran Khan: Start of Testing Times for Cricketer Politician

-By Ganapathi

After more than two decades of being in the electoral arena of Pakistan politics, the cricketer turned politician Imran Khan is few steps away from taking oath as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He represents anti-establishment for he neither hails from a political family like a Bhutto or a Sharif nor from the military.

Imran Khan brought the 1992 Cricket World Cup to Pakistan in 1992. Once he retired, and married the socialite and billionaire’s daughter Jemima Khan, he settled in Pakistan. He proved to his countrymen that he is the son of soil, and remained there (though Bhuttos and Sharifs started accumulating properties in London and elsewhere). He fathered two children with Jemima, and they divorced, and he married again, and he divorced, but he did not divorce from his commitment to lead his country: to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

In the July 25 elections, he ushered his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), as the leading party with 115 seats out of 272 (137 seats are required to form a government). The ruling Pakistan Muslim League won 64 seats followed by Pakistan People’s Party which won 43. The total strength of Pakistan’s National Assembly has 342 seats, direct elections are held only for 272, the rest are reserved for women and religious minorities.

Ilyas Khan is a Pakistan-born European. He told TeluguRajyam that for the first time in many decades there is a hope for the country to have clean and corruption-free politics. (Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who also served as the President of Pakistan, earned the nickname Mr Ten Percent. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was jailed over charges of corruption). He Ilays said PIK proved that it could govern well as the party was re-elected in Kyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP or KPK) formerly known as North West Frontier Province. Though PIK failed to get an absolute majority, he said, most of the regional parties would eventually support the party that forms the national government.

Testing Times

Will Imran Khan steer Pakistan from the interference of its military in its foreign policy? Unlike in India, Pakistan saw its democratically-elected governments overthrown by the military: it happened to a Bhutto and to a Sharif. There is a constant tussle in Pakistan who is subservient to whom: executive & legislature to the military or vice versa?

Can Imran Khan usher a period of peace between the blood brothers of India & Pakistan especially in the troubled state of Jammu & Kashmir?

Can he take Pakistan and Bangladesh to a period of amity and civic relationship?

Imran Khan proved himself as a playboy during his cricketing days. He also briefly dated a woman called Sita White. But his commitment to political cause in Pakistan and to better Pakistan was never wavering. He established a cancer hospital in memory of his mother. A man who had led a liberal life and with secular outlook lead a country that is an Islamic republic, where religion dominates over every aspect of society and democratic institutions? Can the Oxford-educated politician manage his country to stop-exporting terrorism to India? Can he lift the country from being an Islamic republic to a secular liberal democracy where women have equal rights at par with men and the country in transition is not dictated by Islamic fundamentalists?

The world is cheering and congratulating Imran Khan, especially the cricket fans across the cricketing nations and particularly in India over his electoral victory. India can also expect to see a better relationship with Pakistan under a new leader.

His former wife, Jemima Goldsmith, tweeted: “22 years later, after humiliations, hurdles and sacrifices, my sons’ father is Pakistan’s next PM. It’s an incredible lesson in tenacity, belief & refusal to accept defeat. The challenge now is to remember why he entered politics in the 1st place. Congratulations.”

Huma IZ, a London-educated lawyer based in Pakistan, observed about the election: “Best thing about this election (is) the religious parties are almost omitted, out of 1400 candidates only 39 won any kind of seat. Right to Center.”Top of Form

Imran Khan also has vitriolic critics. Fatima Bhutto, granddaughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, wrote in The Guardian: “Khan doesn’t have control of the military machine that now carries him on their shoulders, as always, it will be the machine who controls him.”

Military establishment in Pakistan constantly undermines democratically-elected governments. Can Imran Khan prove his party, his country under his leadership, can defend itself from military? Irrespective of the outcome, testing times for Imran Khan has begun….

Will Imran Khan be a tragic hero, or, a cricketing genius who proved a political caricature, or, a man who batted and bowled unlike no other politician in Pakistan?