Imran Khan’s sordid journey from playboy to prime minister.
Prime Minister Imran Khan is a personality full of contradictions and contrasts. From his cricket days to becoming Pakistan’s Prime Minister, his sordid story is no less stupefying.
The ‘playboy image.’
While pursuing his education overseas, Imran Khan developed a reputation as an aristocratic playboy who chased supermodels around London nightclubs and posed in nothing but satin shorts on a bed.
Khan lived his first 42 years as a bachelor. He married three times over the next 23 years. Imran married Jemima Goldsmith in 1995, a British socialist who converted to Islam at 21. Their marriage ended in divorce after nine years in 2004. It was increasingly difficult for Jemima to cope with the shallowness of western life and she longed for a more meaningful existence. After she married Imran, she felt she had found her ‘soulmate’, but eventually became disillusioned, and the marriage ended in divorce. His marriage to Reham, a British TV presenter, ended after just ten months in 2015. The whole thing lasted about the same amount of time as a commercial. Imran’s cocaine addiction and sexual encounters with many women are among her writings.
Bushra Wattoo, then Imran’s spiritual guide, was shrouded in veils during their traditional Islamic wedding ceremony. Various media outlets reported that Bushra Bibi married Imran Khan after having a dream. In the rumours, the Prophet Muhammad advised her to marry Imran. Khan, who is superstitious, married Bushra Bibi, known as Perini (a Sunni/Brelvi term for women spiritual guides). In reports, Imran said the marriage was more about spiritual connection than physical attraction. Khan’s wife believes in mysterious supernatural activities in Khan’s residential complex. Imran Khan’s first address after his election was seemingly spellbound by his spiritual wife’s message about making Pakistan like Medina in the 7th century.
Although the women in each marriage became more conservative than the previous one (or the previous ones), Imran Khan became more orthodox. As first wife, Jemima Goldsmith wore her hair and head open, his second wife, Reham Khan, partially covered them with a ‘dupatta,’ and his third wife, Bushra Bibi, typically wore a ‘purdah’ (or a hijab or burka). According to some journalists, Imran Khan’s political and ideological views have become retrogressive as his spouses have become more conservative.
He dated Bollywood stars and at least one Hollywood star (Goldie Hawn). Playboy image is exaggerated, but I’m not perfect either.” His only serious relationship in this phase was with Emma Sergeant, an English painter. However, the relationship did not lead to a union.
In his persona, Imran Khan tended to polygamy or perhaps ‘polyamory’ (i.e., marrying several women at once). Being flamboyant and a Casanova (a person who loves women and has many lovers), Imran is said to have several illegitimate children (at least five of whom are known).
An anti-poverty reformer and a pious populist
Despite his legendary cricket career, his historic triumph in the 1992 World Cup lent him the charismatic halo. As a pious, populist, anti-poverty reformer, he now styles himself as a charismatic captain who won the 1992 World Cup for Pakistan.
Ideas that are vague and shifty
Imran Khan’s views have been vague as he often swung from one end to the other as a politician.
Those in Pakistan accuse him of U-turns, like Trump of the USA. Predicting what he will do as a PM or a politician is challenging.
Khan is charged with tanking the country’s financial system. His obsession with media optics has become more important than delivery in the office. Khan has tried everything in his playbook to revive Pakistan’s economy. He waited for a miracle discovery of gas and oil treasures in Pakistan, but that did not happen. He relied on sheep, buffaloes and goats for an economic revolution in the country. Just some time back, Khan rolled out a new scheme under which every woman would be given one cow, one buffalo and three goats. But before announcing this move, he should have done his homework by asking himself whether there were enough cows, buffaloes and goats in Pakistan for every family. As for his latest plan of relying on honeybees, berry plants, and now olive gardens, Imran Khan thinks these measures can make him provide 10 million jobs that his GovernmentGovernment once promised.
The ‘Taliban Khan’ and Compromise with Corruption
He criticised some of the Taliban’s violence, but his party’s Government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province gave $3m (£2.3m) to the notorious Haqqania madrassa. Its head, Maulana Sami-ul Haq, is known as the “father of the Taliban”. Since then, Imran Khan has been called the “Taliban Khan”.
Pakistan’s opposition parties regard PM Imran Khan as an advocate of terrorists. They contend that he should be given the ‘Goebbels Award’ for the lies he tells with confidence. Reacting to Imran Khan’s address to the US think tanks, the Secretary-General of PPP said that Khan is “Taliban Khan without a beard” for the victims of terror activities. After the election victory, Khan defended the Taliban’s justice system and increasingly portrayed himself as a pious Muslim. The opposition parties have asserted that he tried his best to mislead the international community during his visit to the US.
Imran has defended Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws under which members of the minority faiths have been imprisoned. His party denounced Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl shot by the Taliban, as a CIA agent. PTI’s flirtation with the Taliban is part of an overall strategy of using the Taliban as a fulcrum to balance itself against other powerful parties, viz., PMLN and the PPP, while maintaining relevance with the establishment.
As for his election victory, it is well known, as experts observe, that it was a soft coup engineered by Pakistan’s powerful military. Its penetration into politics, society and economy has seen the military establishment securing a vital position in the state apparatus over the years. Imran is the Army’s man. He is expected to do “what the Pakistani Army tells him to do,” said former diplomat G Parthasarathy, who had served as India’s high commissioner in Islamabad. With Khan as the famous face of the regime, it is widely believed that the generals can quietly pull the strings – without taking any responsibility if things go wrong.
Reham Khan, his second wife and a former BBC journalist said in her recently published book that she married Imran because she mistakenly bought the rhetoric that the latter wanted to bring about positive change in Pakistan. But that was her illusion, she writes. She further says that the facts she knows about him are in stark contradiction with his public image, which, she contends, is mere hyperbole, and his religiosity is a very front. She has exposed Imran’s hypocrisy and the entire political elite surrounding him. Praising PM Modi, Reham Khan has questioned her ex-husband about the economic condition of Pakistan. She says she was utterly disgusted and disappointed with what she found about him. She says he is no different from the general rut of other corrupt politicians in Pakistan. She claims to have insights into the inner working of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – the political party of which Imran Khan is the Chairman. Contrary to general belief, Imran is a person who blatantly compromises with corruption.
Khan’s Stewardship: Better Relations with India were Expected
A graduate from Oxford and very much a man-about-town in London in the late 1970s, he became one of the world’s most admired cricketers. He was captain of Pakistan’s team of talented but wayward stars and, with many whispers of autocracy, led them to win cricket’s World Cup for the first and only time in 1992.
It took Imran Khan almost 20 years to come to power as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Imran came from an affluent but liberal background, and it was expected that he would not have the pre-set agenda against India as most Prime Ministers did before him. How wrong he proved everyone once again. His ascension to PM ship was expected to bring about a qualitative change in Pakistan’s political relationship with India.
A time when Imran Khan was considered a sportsman. K. Srikanth was adjudged leg before wicket off Waqar Younis’ delivery, but he insisted he had edged the ball. Imran Khan called Srikanth back with great maturity, composure, and, most importantly, ‘decency’. It makes one wonder where sportsmanship has gone.
Today his contemporaries and later players like Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Mohd. Shami and Harbhajan Singh have all criticised Imran Khan and used the choicest of language to remind us that the Pakistani Prime Minister had forgotten the legacy he so eloquently built. Once a respected cricketer, Imran failed to portray the sports spirit that won him admiration. The Indian cricketing fraternity is naturally furious at how Imran instigated India to consider a possible conventional war between the two nations. It is a reminder of how warped and dubious Imran’s spirit has become since coming to power.
Slowly and insidiously, the way Imran has presented himself as a politician, his image as a world-class player and role model for young cricketers has withered away. The decadence of Pakistan has caught up with the expected once-lone light in this squalor of a space called Pakistan. But the biggest tragedy of this has been the death of a world-class sportsman at the hands of a degenerate group of theocrats who peddle agendas to keep their coffers full. Imran has strayed in the crowd, and no amount of cricket can give him what he has lost.
During his cricketing days, when he captained Pakistan’s win in the 1992 ICC Cricket World Cup, he was not known for his religious beliefs. He admitted to having very little interest in religion, and that too because of his mother, who died of cancer. The passing away of his mother brought Imran Khan into public contact as he toured to raise funds for a cancer hospital in memory of his mother. His penchant for religion is something that came much later in life. As he rose to the political mainstream, he built his messaging around support for religious fundamentalist groups. The aid went to the extent that he was dubbed ‘Taliban Khan’. But the same political constituency brought him to power in 2018. After winning, he called for building a ‘Naya Pakistan’ with a new Islamic identity.
Slanderous Approach to Kashmir
Kashmir, unfortunately, is a legacy or extension of the two-nation theory that led to partition. The successive Pakistani governments have tried to formant trouble in J&K, especially in the Valley. However, consecutive elections in Jammu and Kashmir ensured increased integration of the state and people with the rest of India. This saw desperate attempts from Pakistan to keep the Kashmir Valley on edge through terrorism. When the Narendra Modi government scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, which was believed o be why Pakistan succeeded in helping separatists and arming terrorists in the state, the Imran Khan government launched a diplomatic offensive calling for a show of unity by the Islamic world. Imran Khan has repeatedly tried to project Pakistan as the leader of Muslims worldwide, urging them to unite against India. This narrative suits Imran Khan’s political constituency in Pakistan, which is in the grip of fundamentalist leaders, who invariably extend patronage to terror outfits in the country. Imran Khan has continued to use religion to make a place for himself in Pakistan’s politics.