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Imran Khan: Pakistanís future Prime Minister?

By Sudhanshu Tripathi - posted Monday, 6 February 2012


Imran Khan is very much in news, not only in Pakistan, but all around the world. As a famous cricketer he was well known, but his new incarnation is as a social and political reformer. He is committed to the cause of social, economic and political development and an agenda of common welfare including expansion of education, elimination of corruption, the end of military-mullah nexus and the establishment of real democracy in Pakistan. He also wants to re-establish good relations with the U.S.

Khan’s particular emphasis is to establish genuine democracy in Pakistan: an idea that is becoming more and more popular each day. He is also deeply concerned with the establishment of a responsible and sensitive government that can achieve a corruption free society and welfare of all. He is hopeful for the end of military’s predominant position and consequent interference in the civilian government of Pakistan. The popular desire for democracy in Pakistan is not exempt to the “Arab Spring” movement that is enveloping the entire Middle East.

Four years after retiring from cricket in 1992, and driven by his heart felt desire to serve the common people and their cause, Imran Khan focused his efforts solely on various social and developmental works. In 1994, he got established a Cancer Hospital under the auspicious of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust founded by him in 1991, a charity organisation engaged in several social and humanitarian activities. Established in memory of his beloved mother, who died due to cancer, the hospital is Pakistan's first and only cancer hospital offering 75 per cent free service.

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The hospital was constructed using donations exceeding $25 million raised by Khan from all over the world. Khan currently serves as the Chairman of the hospital and continues to raise funds through charity and public donations. During the 1990s, Khan also served as UNICEF’s Special Representative for Sports and promoted health and immunisation programmes in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. In 2008, Khan's brainchild, a technical college in the Mianwali District called Namal College, was inaugurated. Namal College was built by the Mianwali Development Trust (MDT), also chaired by Khan, and was made an associate college of the University of Bradford (of which Khan is Chancellor). Currently, Khan is building another cancer hospital in Karachi, using his successful Lahore institution as a model.

Irritated at the rapid decline of politics and the political process in Pakistan, Khan founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party in 1996. Its emphasise is on people’s welfare, anti-corruption policies, and the importance of genuine democracy. Although the PTI did not secure a seat in the during the 1997 election, it remains committed to the end of corruption in Pakistan. It is this reason that Khan and the PTI supported General Pervez Musharraf's military coup in 1999, believing that Musharraf would “end corruption, clear out the political mafias”.

According to Imran, he was Musharraf's choice for the post of Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2002 but he turned down the offer. The General Election of 2002 in Pakistan did open his party’s account as he was elected from the NA-71 constituency of Mianwali, even though the PTI won only 0.8 per cent of the popular vote. Khan sat on Standing Committees on Kashmir and Public Accounts, and expressed legislative interest in Foreign Affairs, Education and Justice.

While adopting a staunch pro-Islamic vision cutting across national boundaries, in 2005, Khan became one of the first Muslim figures to criticise a 300-word Newsweek story about the alleged desecration of the Qur’an in a U.S. military prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Khan held a press conference to denounce the article and demanded that Pervez Musharraf secure an apology from the American president George W. Bush for this shameful incident. In 2006, he exclaimed, “Musharraf is sitting here, and he licks George Bush’s shoes!” Criticizing Muslim leaders supportive of the Bush administration, he added, “They are the puppets sitting on the Muslim world. We want a sovereign Pakistan.”

In 2007, the federal Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr. Sher Afghan Khan Niazi and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party filed separate ineligibility references against Khan, asking for his disqualification as member of the National Assembly on grounds of immorality. Both references, filed on the basis of articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan, were rejected on 5 September 2007.

Later in 2007, as part of the All Parties Democratic Movement, Khan joined 85 other MPs to resign from Parliament in protest of the Presidential election scheduled for October, which General Musharraf was contesting without resigning as army chief. On 3 November 2007, Khan was put under house arrest at his father's home hours after President Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan. Khan had demanded the death penalty for Musharraf after the imposition of emergency rule, which he equated to "committing treason". T

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The next day, on 4 November, Khan escaped and went into hiding. He eventually came out of hiding on 14 November to join a student protest at the University of the Punjab. At the rally, Khan was captured by students from the Jamaat-i-Islami political party, who claimed that Khan was an uninvited nuisance at the rally, and they handed him over to the police, who charged him and put him in jail under the Anti-terrorism act for allegedly inciting people to pick up arms, calling for civil disobedience, and for spreading hatred. He was one of the 3,000 political prisoners released from imprisonment on 21 November 2007.

Imran Khan is gaining popularity in Pakistan as veteran political leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). In the current civil-military-judiciary tussle in Pakistan, and consequent instability along with fear of impending military coup, the talk of early elections is in air. In the scenario, Khan’s prospects look quite promising. He has become hopeful of carrying his party to a landslide victory with himself as the Prime Minister, as he announced in Davos recently. Fortunately, social media are in his favour. Hence, he holds a bright future.

Pakistan under Imran Khan could look like the following: establishment of genuine democracy with the framework of Islamic values (to which he rededicated himself in the 1990s); economic liberalisation, deregulation of the economy and the creation of a welfare state; reducing the role of bureaucracy in policy formulations and legislating anti-corruption laws; the establishment of an independent and impartial judiciary; overhauling the country's policing system; and an anti-militant vision for a liberal and democratic Pakistan.

But how far will he be able to carry on his progressive ideas among largely a conservative society which cannot progress as it ought to will be due to incompetent and corrupt politicians working under the influence of the military and retrograde and hardliners mullahs.

As for India, Imran at the helm of affairs in Pakistan may provide good prospects as well as new opportunities for resolving regional and foreign differences. This is so because of his modern, liberal, democratic and progressive ideals and because of his firm determination to not only eliminate all those prevailing evils in his country but to construct a new Pakistan devoid of the stigma of being a failed state. 

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About the Author

Dr Sudhanshu Tripathi is an Associate Professor of Political Science at MDPG College, Pratapgarh, India.

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