The first episode of musician Salman Ahmed’s docuseries on PM Imran Khan’s life titled Spiritual Democracy recently premiered on YouTube, featuring an interview with the prime minister on his journey from cricket to the world of politics.
After the Junoon founding member asked Khan to reflect on the term ‘spiritual democracy’, which the PM has been credited with coining, he explained that the term boils down to governance based on universal values of humanity and justice. “If you look at every human society, the values that they consider sacred, they are all the same. Being just and being humane. Because the animal kingdom is not just or humane. It is about the survival of the fittest and that might is right. This is what distinguishes us, and being humane and being just are spiritual values. Isaaniyat and insaaf. So if you have a democracy that is based on these two great values, it is spiritual.”
The PM elaborated further, “I would describe a spiritual democracy as a democracy that will take decisions in the favour of human beings rather than commercial interests. For instance, this whole ecological movement and the ecological degradation, climate change, is all because of commercial interests superseding the interest of humanity. The Prophet (PBUH) said, live in this world as if you would live for a thousand years. In other words, you would think about all those generations that will come a thousand years later. Whatever you do today, what impact will it have on their lives? And then he said to live for the next world as if you’d die tomorrow, so you live a very moral life.”
When asked by Ahmed about how his time as a cricketer, which involved dealing with high amounts of stress, helped him later on, Khan explained, “When I started playing cricket, I wasn’t good under pressure. I used to panic, but gradually, because I didn’t give up and I used to fight more than others, I would fight to the last ball, I got mentally stronger than others. So, in these critical situations that you mentioned, everything eventually boils down to the mind. Do you have that resilience to not give up? First, you give up in your mind before you give up on the ground. Conversely, if you don’t give up from your mind, you can win in impossible situations.”
Adding the importance of being self-critical, he asserted, “Connected to it is the ability to analyse your mistakes. You have to be able to analyse where you’re going wrong. Every setback will become an opportunity for you to improve.”
The PM stressed the importance of stepping out of comfort zones in order to grow. He explained, “Everything in life is a stepping stone, provided you treat it like a stepping stone. The problem with human beings is that somewhere along the line, we stay in our comfort zone and we stop striving, and that is the beginning of your decline because there is no plateau. You are either going up, or you’re going down. The more you challenge yourself, the stronger you will get.”
Elaborating further, he added, “If, for instance, all the struggle I learned from on the cricket field, had I after that just done cricket work and commentary, that would have meant that I’d capped the limit of my potential. I would have taken the easy option, my comfort zone, and that’s what a lot of sportsmen do. Because they struggle at such a high level in sports, it equips them to go into any other field.”
After Ahmed asked Khan, who was previously opposed to both marriage and politics in his younger years, what led to him taking on both later on in life, the PM reflected on his “spiritual journey”. He shared, “Human beings evolve. When you make a statement at a certain point in time, you don’t know there are all sorts of other circumstances changing around you.”
“In my case, it was my spiritual journey which started just before I finished cricket. Three or four years before I left cricket, I was already on a spiritual journey. I had moved from a non-spiritual life and I was on a journey that was limitless.”
Adding how his wife changed his perspective on spirituality, the PM elaborated, “I used to think I was quite advanced compared to other people, and it was only when I met my wife Bushra Begum that I realized that I was actually nowhere. That there were levels of spirituality and I was only just scratching the surface.”
On the struggle of building Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital in honour of his late mother who passed away after a battle with cancer, and how that led to a change in his politics, the PM said, “At the time, it felt like it would be impossible to build it because everyone thought it was not possible. And then, to run it, it was a big challenge to have free treatment for cancer. So, that was my immediate goal. But, as I embarked on that goal my thoughts changed from building just one hospital to building a welfare state.”
Speaking about the satisfaction he gained from helping others, Khan added, “After the World Cup in ‘92, the struggle I had to go through to build that hospital, I ended up on the street. I ended up going into streets and schools to collect money. It was the first interaction I was having with people. That was when the change started to happen. When the hospital opened, it gave me such great satisfaction that nothing in my cricketing career had.”
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