Imran Khan from the heart

Published: October 1, 2011
The writer is Director, South Asian Media School, Lahore

The writer is Director, South Asian Media School, Lahore

Imran Khan has published an account of his life in Pakistan: A Personal History (Bantam Press 2011), talking of matters he has probably not discussed before, some quite frankly and with regret.

The formative matrix is Zaman Park where he grew up. His maternal grandfather Ahmad Hasan Khan continues to be emblematic of the place. A contemporary noted that in the early years of the 20th century that when he entered the Government College (GC) Lahore, Ahmad Hasan Khan, as a student of the GC, was talk of the town, captaining both cricket and soccer teams. He grew to become the most intellectually gifted of the Pathans of Jalundhar, serving as census commissioner of Punjab at the height of his career as a civil servant.

The sporting DNA came from him, father to three daughters who gave Pakistan three captains (Javed Burki, Majid Khan, Imran Khan) of the national cricket team. Of the three, Imran’s mother was the most educated. Under her tutelage Imran achieved excellence in both aspects of personality, sport and intellect. Typically, at Zaman Park, he was withdrawn and wild, conforming to the first law of the jungle, survival of the fittest.

Ahmad Hasan Khan’s son Ahmad Raza Khan went on to embody Zaman Park’s arcadian model: he played all sports with distinction and was a natural leader in civil service. Majid Khan’s father Dr Jehangir Khan combined in his genius a scholar-historian and a javelin-throwing wrestler who became an all-India cricketer.

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 General 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 before going in to bat.)

Imran imbibed a strong sense of personal destiny. He recalls: “Pir Gi 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 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 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 by accurately guessing her three secret wishes (p.120).

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 realises 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. Allama Iqbal had his Atiya Fyzee and 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 out-weighed 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 Allama Iqbal and Jinnah who Sarojini Naidu thought (p.18) was “a little aloof and imperious of manner” — just like Imran Khan?

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 Ali Shariati, but he may finally be more like Syed Qutb, too reactive, too much a politician of extremes.

Coda: The cover picture of Imran with a punk thatch may be too brown sahibish compared to the more impromptu and ‘true’ photographs inside the book.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • Hasan Sheikh
    Oct 1, 2011 - 10:48PM

    Well written and insightful. Where can I get the book from?


  • CommonSense
    Oct 1, 2011 - 10:49PM

    Imran Khan is yet to be tested of his mettle, but no one can deny that the man has had an interesting journey. He is pretty much an embodiment of Been there, Done that.


  • Faiz
    Oct 1, 2011 - 10:49PM

    Great Man have great words, “Great leaders always have the ability to resist pressure and make policies according to their vision, rather than fear.”

    I think, after Great Great Quaid-i-Azam, Imran khan is the leader who has the guts and will to take decisions under pressures.


  • Majid
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:02PM

    IK needs to tone down his ego and stop fancying himself a great leader. Leading a team to victory in a sports tournament is no testament to his abilities as a politician. He is too much of a reactionist, and his supporters do not inspire much confidence in their cult-like reverence of ‘kaptaan’. Imran Khan could be more appealing if he reaches out to the center of political spectrum instead of drumming support among the conservatives and religious right-wingers. The country is in desperate need of a pragmatist, not an idealist. The education sector is in a shambles, healthcare access is almost non-existent, population growth is a ticking time bomb, and yet Imran Khan has chosen to keep harping about drone attacks. Why can’t we have leaders who have an actual policy on education, economy, and security like they do in the developed world.

    Imran Khan’s populist approach reminds me of some recent fascist leaders and the thought makes me uneasy.


  • Maryam
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:25PM

    “Imran Khan is grateful that his two wonderful sons are growing up with her in England, away from the violent dystopia of Pakistan.” Thank you Imran Khan for writing this.


  • Cynical
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:25PM

    Love him or hate him, he has character.
    Though I find it hard not to admire him, even when not agreeing with him.


  • Abdullah
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:55PM

    From Imran we need policies and not personality based political party. He also need to come out clean on Islamic issues e.g. interest based economy and what sort of State he wants – Islamic or not?

    If he is going to use secularism to rule and legislate and it is going to be more of the same and same humiliation that became destiny of Jamat e Islami, PPP, PML after participating in Pakistan’s secular system of ruling which people of Pakistan reject!


  • TightChuddi
    Oct 2, 2011 - 12:23AM

    I think IK’s hedonism period has not ended. After women he has taken his lust to gain power. I am sure it will also end in similar failure as with Jemima.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Oct 2, 2011 - 1:02AM

    Great khan no matter what we love him go khan go. jaye jalendhar jaye imran khan jaye
    Mian wali jaye Hazara.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Oct 2, 2011 - 1:03AM

    @ Majid
    Atleast i think he gonna be better than these allready existing jokers.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Oct 2, 2011 - 1:23AM

    @ Maryam
    every third world country leaders children and some of them wives also are westren its a
    gread trend and peoples of those coutries like that oye gori aye hai.
    even all the patriotic peoples of india pakistan lived and study in west.


  • san
    Oct 2, 2011 - 1:27AM

    whether call him one-man show or self-centered but still he has such God gifted charisma which give us hope not to be hopeless.


  • wsd
    Oct 2, 2011 - 1:42AM

    With all his faults and mistakes he still is one of the most respected Pakistanis inside and outside of Pakistan. After 15 years of politics he is more relevant in this field than ever in the past.
    Good luck Imran!!!!!!!


  • Kamal
    Oct 2, 2011 - 1:55AM

    @Maryam. These are Khaled Ahmed’s words not Imran’s.I hope you understand the difference and kindly dont be too quick to jump to conclusions.


  • Tiger Direct
    Oct 2, 2011 - 2:08AM

    No one is clean but tell me for Pakistan, who is a better choice than Imran Khan. Shame on all the people who they can not judge on the base of facts and honesty.


  • Nadeem Ahmed
    Oct 2, 2011 - 2:29AM

    Sending his own kids in safe environment of England is acceptable but his support to those who destroy schools, businesses and kill innocent people is not acceptable. If western society is good for his family, then why its not good for me and other common people of Pakistan. I don’t care what his past was, but I do care about his future plans, and my plan is to stay away from this hypocrat.


  • Israr
    Oct 2, 2011 - 2:48AM

    As always it is tragic to read pessimism and derogation from the comments section, for it is a harsh reminder of the pakistani society which would go to extremes to bring others down, without doing much to lift themselves up. Instead of acknowledging the unique platform he offers for the next generation and trying to help him out further by joining him and sorting out imperfections from within the movement, we find it easier to take a swipe at him and ridicule him for not being an angel. Nations are built on collaboration, not contempt. If the critics are aware of a better platform to collaborate on, it is my very humble request to speak out that alternative at the end of their posts.


  • Oct 2, 2011 - 3:02AM

    This book seems to be full of ‘Golden Nuggets’. Looking forward to buying it soon.


  • Zoaib
    Oct 2, 2011 - 3:38AM

    Nice piece. Though I disagree with your final analysis about Imran. Time will tell I guess.

    One thing though about his kids. I’ve been through the book and his numerous interviews and have never heard him say he’s happy his kids are in England and not in Pakistan. He’s always said being away from his kids has been his biggest regret in life and would like his sons to live in Pakistan if they wish, when they turn old enough.


  • Arafat Mazhar
    Oct 2, 2011 - 9:24AM

    Comparing Imran Khan to Syed Qutb is sillyRecommend

  • sabawoon
    Oct 2, 2011 - 10:25AM

    Ikhan is the current best. lets strengthen his team by joining him.


  • Oct 2, 2011 - 11:05AM

    imran book is not available in market. there was an error in the map of pakistan in which kashmir was shown as almost independent to india and pakistan so the book creates problems in india and pakistan. publisher discard all books and it is reprinted. it will be in market in a week or so. in lhore it will be available 2readings.
    in his book imran tries to free himself from jamat islami thesis, supported brelviislam as master piece of south asian interpretation based on tolerance and rejected other islamic school of thoughts . he is equally critical to us, saudi arabia and iran. his criticism on zia and non party elections develops problems for his supporters like haroon rashid etc. his criticism on war on terror with reference of nuramberg trials is a good twist. but it is interesting that he is very critical to Us but not britain? statements and interviews published in london during launching ceremony of his book under his name were too reflects his changing view point. is his support to spirtual islam a usual tactist? or not. will mian bashir last prophesy come true? these r all questions yet the book is challenge for both opponents and supporters of imran


  • R.A
    Oct 2, 2011 - 1:59PM

    It was just an accident that Imran Khan
    was converted from sports to politics.
    He did not get the chance to think about
    the implications.
    Now it is too late.

  • R.A
    Oct 2, 2011 - 2:03PM

    @Alex Khan
    Did you mean NUGATORY?

  • Maaz
    Oct 2, 2011 - 2:38PM

    I have read the whole book….there is no place where IK has expressed that he is grateful that his children are living in UK…instead it is the biggest regret of his life…..we need ideallism not pragmatism to pull Pakistan out of this mess…….
    I am witnessing a revolution in the making.I feel sad for the pessimists who have closed their eyes….kindly check out Imran’s interviews and for his educational policie and his team….


  • MA Khan
    Oct 2, 2011 - 3:46PM

    Imran Khan’s personality is clean and naive then other politicians of recent times. If we have given chances to other than why not imran? Everyone knows his credibility, honesty, and his native background. before joining Politics he established his credibility among us by wining world cup and then Shoukut Khaanum Hospital. So, no one could deny his work. During 1992 world cup journey Pakistan was precluded but fortunately God tested him as a Leader and he proved. Me and my team prayers are always with him. May God keep him safe and honest! ameen


  • meekal ahmed
    Oct 2, 2011 - 5:22PM

    Two sons growing up in England. Says it all, if you ask me. They will stay there and work there all their lives brought up as little Americans’ and unable to speak their mother-tongue.

    That is what they do. Spend their entire time spouting venom and hatred for the west and then send their children off to live there.

    I would NEVER let my children separate from me. Recommend

  • Freeman
    Oct 2, 2011 - 5:35PM

    @Nadeem Ahmed: Imran is not hypocrite he is honest and best leader for Pakistan. Every leader have weaknesses as they are also human beings. In this age always children stays with mother not father. When they will be grown up they will decide where and how they want to live. I have seen his both children always support Pakistani Cricket team when England and Pakistan play with each other.

    I challenge no other leader we have as honest as Imran Khan. We should give him one chance. Judging him Without giving him a chance is not fair.

    For the people who thinks he does not have any plans for the country how he will run the country if he wins election are mistaken. He has already announced his first 90 day plan. You can check his plan on PTI website.


  • Oct 2, 2011 - 6:14PM

    Politician,and people of Sub-continent are full of contridiction,it is what it is.They will study and live in west,marry in west,leave their childern to grow up in west.Then when they see,they will do much better in their native land,they will relocate,and use their natives and native land.Does,Gandhi,Nehru,Jinnah,and scores of others ring bell?Now you see the strange spectcle Of maduri Dixit relocating to India.I have no opinion,I do not judge them,but the hypocracy is just mind boggling


  • Waqar
    Oct 2, 2011 - 9:25PM

    @meekal ahmed:
    Its courts decision to send his kids to live with their mother not his own.


  • zee123
    Oct 2, 2011 - 10:24PM

    It is so easy to pick on the negatives, dwell on them, and ignore all the good this man does nd continues to do. Here are the simple facts – He has only a pakistani passport, his money and home are in pakistan, he has built the first cancer hospital in pakistan and is working on two more, he is respected all over the world. So simple question, who else compares to him in pakistani polotics?
    But here you people are picking on his flaws. It’s just sad to see how blind people can be.


  • Doctor
    Oct 3, 2011 - 11:27AM

    So much ego, so little real vision for how to save Pakistan from the abyss. Siding with the terrorists is not the solution Imran.


  • Saad ullah
    Oct 3, 2011 - 12:11PM

    Its really worth now giving PTI a chance, rather than hoping sumthing gud from the corrupt and incompetent parties!!! There is no other option now except Imran khan! he is the hope!!


  • Ali Tanoli
    Oct 3, 2011 - 7:28PM

    @ Khaled Ahmed sahib,
    Do u know most these peoples who commenting in ET are also lived in Europ and AMerica
    and other overseas countries in india and pakistan poor peoples dont have spare time for this s…..


  • Bigboy
    Oct 3, 2011 - 8:49PM

    Ali Tanoli
    Reply @ Maryam
    every third world country leaders children and some of them wives also are westren…..

    So you do agree that Mr.Imran Khan is the same as all other politicians.


  • Imran
    Oct 3, 2011 - 10:30PM

    It is a great blessing of Allah to have someone like Imran Khan. Recommend

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