Imran Khan addresses a hugely successful rally in Lahore on October 30 (Image courtesy: Roznama Jang, October 31, 2011)
Following Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's hugely successful October 30, 2011 political rally, there has been a series of reports in the Pakistani media examining the personal life and beliefs of Khan and the political challenges he faces.
Khan held his rally in Lahore, the capital of the most influential Pakistani province of Punjab, where the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party is in power.
The PML-N politicians, who fear a political threat from Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, have criticized the Pakistani military and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for their support of Khan. Neutral observers in Pakistan believe that Khan's PTI, which so far has been largely a one-man party, is not capable of holding successful political rallies on this scale without some support from the Pakistani intelligence apparatus.
The following media reports examine the accusations that the ISI is supporting Imran Khan, as well as Khan's own statement to an Indian television channel that the Pakistan Army and the ISI will be subordinate to him if he becomes the country's prime minister. One of these reports is a review of Imran Khan's autobiography, in which the reviewer argues that in his ideological thinking, Khan is closer to Al-Qaeda ideologue Sayyed Qutb.
Express Tribune, Pakistan, November 13, 2011
Opposition Leader Nawaz Sharif "Has Given a Go-Ahead to Party Leaders to 'Expose the Games of the Military Establishment' – And Particularly to Criticize" the ISI
"The frantic political stir created by the up-and-coming Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has provoked opposing reactions on Saturday [November 12] from the two heavyweight parties of the country, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
"While Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani calmly shrugged off talk of there being any threat to his party from the PTI’s monumental rise, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan [of PML-N] was more frantic – alleging that there was a concerted effort to undermine the PML-N, using parties such as the PTI, and saying he had evidence to support this claim.
"Though it had been fluid for a while, the political landscape was shaken by the PTI’s mammoth October 30 rally… in Lahore, the seat of power in Punjab, long considered the bastion of the PML-N's power. Even before the Lahore rally, with PTI's major political activity taking place in urban Punjab constituencies, analysts and observers concluded that the rise of Imran Khan's PTI would hurt the PML-N the most.
"The Lahore rally seemed to drive this point home emphatically for the PML-N, which has since then been in a huddle, planning what to do.
"PML-N’s President Nawaz Sharif on Saturday [November 12] held a meeting of the party's senior leaders in … Lahore where he also presided over a meeting of party workers from Faisalabad division.
"According to senior party member privy to the discussions at the meeting, Sharif has given a go-ahead to party leaders to 'expose the games of military establishment' and particularly to criticize the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The PML-N's think tank last month had decided that this offensive would be launched if the [military-led] establishment did not cease and desist from interfering in the country's political dynamics – and that those ISI officials allegedly involved in this practice would be 'exposed'…."
Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Says He "Would Demand That the Prime Minister Call the Army Chief [Gen. Kayani] to the Floor of the National Assembly to Clarify the Establishment's Position"
"Chaudhry Nisar, in a typically fiery press conference, said he would present evidence of the military establishment’s sponsoring and promotion of PTI's Lahore rally. He warned that if the ISI did not mend its ways the PML-N would take 'direct action' either on the floor of the house, in the courts or through the media. 'I have detailed documents of funding and ample evidence of the management the ISI extended in making the PTI's rally successful,' Nisar said…."
"Asked why he did not approach Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani with the allegations, Nisar replied that he had approached the general a number of times to control the role of ISI in politics. Kayani, he said, never responded to the pleas. He did add that he told the army chief that the ISI's role under Kayani had remained 'excellent' for the first two years – but that this role had become dubious once again.
"[In answer] to a query, Nisar said that since Kayani would not listen to him, he would demand that the prime minister call the army chief to the floor of the National Assembly to clarify the establishment's position in the making and breaking of political parties.
"He said that the ISI was being used for petty politics despite the Pakistan military being under immense foreign pressure…. He said that Imran Khan had been in politics for 15 years, yet those that have joined him in recent days have strong linkages with the establishment. He added that 90% of those joining the PTI are from a party created by former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, that is, the PML-Q…."
Khan in Interview: ISI will Be "Under Me"; I Will Be Army Chief Gen. Kayani's Boss "100 Percent"
Amid growing criticisms that Imran Khan is backed by the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Khan was interviewed by Indian journalist Karan Thapar. In the interview, Khan said that the ISI and Pakistan Army chief Gen. Kayani will be under him "100 per cent" if he became the country's prime minister.
Asked if he would accept a "subordinate status" under Army Chief Gen. Kayani, the Corps Commanders and the ISI, Khan responded: "Unless I can implement my agenda and what which means I take responsibility of everything that's happening in Pakistan; it means that the army is under me; it means the ISI can do nothing unless it reports to me."
Pressed over whether he would be Gen. Kayani's boss, Khan said: "100 percent; I have never ever, ever been controlled by anyone."
Reviewer of Khan's Autobiography, Express Tribune, Pakistan, October 2, 2011
Imran Khan "Liked the Defiance of [Zulfiqar Ali] Bhutto, Who Had Committed Pakistan to a Thousand-Year War with India"
Earlier this year, Imran Khan published his autobiography "Pakistan: A Personal History." In a review of the book, Pakistani writer Khaled Ahmed observed:
"Following the completion of his A-levels in 1972 from Aitchison College Lahore, Imran went to Oxford (p.57). He already liked the defiance of Bhutto who had committed Pakistan to a thousand-year war with India at the UN. But Bhutto fell early enough because of his embedded flaw of a feudal mind (p.40).
"Memory inclined him to abhor what he calls the brown sahibs of Pakistan whom he first saw in Lahore Gymkhana where 'Pakistanis pretended to be English and danced to Western music on a Saturday night' (p.43). Gora sahib British had embedded an inferiority complex amongst the natives with great care (p.45).
"He loved cricketers who refused to kowtow: 'Sir Vivian Richards from the West and Sunil Gavaskar of India were both examples of sportsmen who wanted to assert their equality on the cricket field against their former colonial masters' (p.64). British Raj had romanced the Pathan highlander even as he fought him, admiring his defiance.
"As captain of the Pakistan team, Imran got on well with Gen. Ziaul Haq, although 'his political use of Islam was aimed more at capturing the mood of the time' (p.69). He thought Islamisation was mere outward observance and remained untouched by it. (Later, Captain Inzimamul Haq would preside over a crudely demonstrative religiosity that left the team empty of all ethic. Today, after Talibanisation, even Miandad says he used to do wuzu [ablution] before going in to bat.)
"Imran imbibed a strong sense of personal destiny. He recalls: 'Pir Gi [Sufi mystic] from Sahiwal said I would be very famous and make my mother a household name' (p.89). Imran had announced his first retirement when he met another clairvoyant: 'Baba Chala lived in a little village just a few miles from the Indian border. He certainly had not heard bout [sic] my retirement… the man looked at me and said I had not left my profession…. It is the will of Allah; you are still in the game' (p.93).
"But the man who stood by him as his spiritual mentor was Mian Bashir (d.2005) who shocked him by naming the Quranic ayat [Koranic verse] his mother used to read to baby Imran and predicted that Allah had turned the tables in his favour in the Lamb-Botham libel suit whose reparations would have pauperised Imran (p.189). Mian Bashir also disarmed a sceptical Jemima [the British heiress] by accurately guessing her three secret wishes (p.120)."
Imran Khan "Is Aware of the 'Born Again' Label and Resists It… He is More Firmly Moored in [the Teachings of Islamist Poet] Allama Iqbal… But He May Finally Be More Like Sayyed Qutb"
"Imran married Jemima in 1995, but the marriage was on the rocks soon enough. He is graceful in his expression of sincere regret at what happened: 'The six months leading up to our divorce and the six months after made up the hardest year of my life' (p.214).
"If the book is a personal narrative, Jemima probably deserved more space. She was of far greater personal worth than he realizes, although he is appropriately grateful that his two wonderful sons are growing up with her in England, away from the violent dystopia of Pakistan.
"Jemima and Princess Diana were both good for Imran and his cancer hospital. His icons looked for the 'autonomous woman' in their dedicated lives. [Pakistan's Islamist national poet] Allama Iqbal had his Atiya Fyzee and [Pakistan's founder M. A.] Jinnah his Ruttie. Inspirational, predestined Imran had his 'rational' Jemima?
"He discusses his pre-marital 'hedonism' and calls it 'a mirage': 'The hurt I caused and the feeling of emptiness I experienced in transitory relationships far outweighed the moments of pleasure' (p.91). He is aware of the 'born again' label and resists it, even recalling Fazal Mehmood, the playboy fast bowler of Pakistan, who went heavily religious after retirement from cricket. He is more firmly moored in [the teachings of Islamist poet] Allama Iqbal…."
"From his sense of predestination comes his risk-taking character. But he says: 'The difference between a good leader and a bad one is that the former takes huge risks while fully grasping the consequences of failure. Leaders of a country shaping policies out of fear of losing power have always proves to be disastrous. Great leaders always have the ability to resist pressure and make policies according to their vision, rather than fear' (p.113).
"A most falsifying aspect of leadership is its condition of being a public good. Imran has read his Allama Iqbal and [Iranian writer] Ali Shariati, but he may finally be more like Sayyed Qutb [the ideologue whose ideas are espoused by Al-Qaeda], too reactive, too much a politician of extremes…."