March 1, 1992. Adelaide Oval. Pakistan versus England — World Cup Group Stage match. Pakistan are bowled out for a paltry 76 and in reply England are cantering towards that target. Suddenly, the heavens open. There are torrential rains followed by a complete washout. No further play possible. England had batted 8 overs in their innings – had they played 12 more overs before the rains intervened, they would have in all probability got full points for the match. But as destiny would have it, Pakistan escaped with one very crucial point for this No-Result game, a point which was ultimately instrumental in their progress to the semi-finals.
— PTI (@PTIofficial) July 26, 2018
Rest, as they say, is History. Pakistan beat co-hosts New Zealand in New Zealand in the semi-final and beat England in a memorable final at Melbourne, before a capacity crowd of 100,000 plus people (breaking Ian Botham’s heart, who cheekily claimed that he wanted to win the World Cup before a hundred thousand convicts!).
At the centre-stage of this amazing transformation was the greatest cricketer that Pakistan had ever produced. Imran Khan Niazi. Now most likely, Pakistan’s freshly-minted Prime Minister.
Kaptaan gets another 5 fever! This time in Politics! We the Pakistani People are lucky to have a legend like @ImranKhanPTI in our country! Now together let's make Pakistan better! @ImranKhanPTI
We are right behind you Kaptaan!
Shukariyaaa PAKISTAN#wazirEAzamImranKhan pic.twitter.com/BiBi58SV6u
— Hassan Ali (@RealHa55an) July 26, 2018
From ace cricketer to politician
There are clear two discernible chapters in Imran’s public life. The first as a cricketer/captain. Second as a politician.
While his status as one of the all-time great all-rounders and captain is assured in pantheon of cricketing greats, the jury is still out on his legacy as a politician. He had one of the most important traits of a captain in abundance — i.e., leading from the front. A case in point — realising that the batting was the weak spot for the team, he promoted himself up the order and took the onus of scoring crucial runs for Pakistan in the semis and sinal of the 1992 World Cup. All throughout his cricketing career, he has been the first one to take the West Indians, Australians, the English and the Indians head-on. Be it with the ball or with the bat.
Today's editorial cartoon pic.twitter.com/ufiiCk4jIF
— Dawn.com (@dawn_com) July 27, 2018
It was largely his inspirational leadership which propelled Pakistan to its first ever test series win in India, in 1987 (despite a heroic 96 by Sunil Gavaskar in his last test innings, India lost that Test in Bangalore and with it the Series 0-1 to Imran Khan-led Pakistan).
Mentored by Pak Deep State
If Imran the Prime Minister proves to be half as good as Imran the captain — Pakistan is in for some great times. Alas, I don’t share this optimism about Imran the PM. Here’s why.
They say about Pakistan that while other States have an Army, Pakistan Army has a State!The Pakistani “Deep State”, i.e. its Army and its appendages — the ISI, its intelligence and military wings — have reputedly a deep, pervasive and overwhelming control of Pakistan and its state organs — its legislature, executive and even judiciary. For a major part of its existence, it has been ruled directly by military generals masquerading as popular leaders. But as the last one in the long line of military dictators (General Musharraf) discovered, it is no longer easy to rule the millennials directly. Too many accountability issues, something that the Pakistani Deep State loathes and isn’t accustomed to. Therefore, create a proxy. And this is where Imran Khan figures.
Imran’s bachelorhood was a hot topic of discussion, not only in Pakistan but also in India in the 70s and the 80s. He retired after the 1992 World Cup and devoted himself to building the ShaukatKhanum Cancer Hospital in Lahore, after his late mother who had succumbed to cancer. In between, he finally lost his bachelor status and married a White Jewish-Christian billionaire heiress — Jemima Goldsmith, who converted to Islam and shifted to Pakistan. Their marriage surprisingly didn’t last long, as Jemima could not adjust to life in Pakistan (as Ian Botham memorably put it: “Pakistan is a place where you’d like to send your mother-in-law to”).
In 1996, he sought to reinvent himself as the leader of the PTI — Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (loosely translated as Pakistan Movement for Justice Party). This party received some moderate success, but not the scale that Imran would have imagined and hoped for. He could not shake off the allegations that he was a proxy for the Pakistan Army — he was allegedly mentored by Hamid Gul, the former head of the ISI.
Three marriages, two divorces and twenty years later — he is on the cusp of being Pakistan’s democratically elected Prime Minister. A rare commodity indeed, as the results of the recent Pakistani parliamentary elections trickle in, it’s not very difficult to see that his ascent to the high chair has been made easier by the fact that his main political rivals are either dead (Benazir Bhutto) or behind bars (Nawaz Sharif), discredited (Asif Ali Zardari) or immature (Bilawal Bhutto).
Between Army and the fundamentalists
His administrative acumen and diplomatic skills will be put to severest of tests in the coming time. After all, in politics, Imran Khan can’t just pick up the cricket ball/bat and swing the match in his team’s favour. On the cricketing field, he was supreme. The results depended on his skill-set and on his ability to extract the best of some of the wonderfully talented players at his disposal. This is not going to happen in politics. If he is indeed a product of the Army, he will have to carry out Army’s agenda. If he does not do Army’s bidding, past experience says he will not last long in the Prime Minister’s chair.
Imran has developed a distasteful reputation for hob-knobbing with fundamentalist, radical Islamist elements in Pakistan. His criticism of the West and Western lifestyle sounds ludicrously hypocritical, considering he owes his cricketing skills to the posh universities of England and spent his younger years, revelling in the hedonistic liberalism of the West.
"I pledge to our people that I will introduce a system that is for the masses, all policies will be for the people and not for the elite," Imran vowed. pic.twitter.com/skazgtnSVT
— Dawn.com (@dawn_com) July 26, 2018
On India and Kashmir
Barely a day since the results have trickled in, Prime Minister-elect Imran Khan has made all the right noises about India and the Kashmir dispute. He says resolving the Kashmir issue is his first priority. He wants to have friendly ties with India and says that he will “walk two steps if India walks one”. Imran needs to understand that the road for better ties with India starts from the dozens of militant training camps that dot the PoK, whose sole task is to train and infiltrate militants into India. If he is serious of resolving outstanding disputes with India, he needs to close these terror camps, he needs to take constructive active action against the Hafiz Saeeds of Pakistan and demolish the terror industry that is rampant in the country.
He needs to ensure that the India policy is formulated by democratically elected leaders and not by faceless army generals. But all this much easier said than done. After all, Pakistan has used terror as a state policy since the times of General Zia ulHaq, for more than 30 years now.To say Imran Khan will have the requisite political courage and authority to reverse General Zia’s “thousand cuts” policy will clearly be an overstatement at present.
Always a maverick
Imran’s political track record lacks consistency and is plagued by a disturbing maverick style of functioning. It gives an inescapable inference that he is controlled by someone and that he does not have the freedom to set and pursue his own agenda. Leaders with far greater mandate than what he has achieved in the recent elections have been hostage to the Pakistani Deep State insofar their India policy goes. If political pundits feel this when he is a mere head of a political party, I don’t see any reason why will it be any different with Imran at the prime ministerial helm.
“Big Boys play at Night” – Imran’s T-shirt famously said in the 80s. Now it seems the big boy has grown older and only “prays” at night. Despite several disappointments in the past, here’s wishing him the very best and hoping that he proves pessimists, including your truly, wrong. He deserves his fair chance. After all Imran Khan would be first ever World Cup winning captain to sit on the Prime Minister’s chair. Maybe he is able to pull off a 1992 on the Pakistani Deep State.