Imran Khan’s Journey from an Ace Cricketing Superstar to Prime Minister of Pakistan

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Shabir Ahmad

Imran Khan, the legendary cricketing sports star, is almost all set to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Khan was born to a Pashtun family in Lahore, Punjab, in 1952 and educated at Aitchison, Worcester, and later at Keble College, Oxford. He started playing cricket at the age of 13. Initially playing for his college and later for the Worcestershire Cricket Club, he made his debut for Pakistan at the age of 18 during the 1971 English series at Birmingham. After graduating from Oxford, Khan joined Pakistan’s national cricket team in 1976, and played until 1992. The ace cricketing sports star also served as the team’s captain intermittently throughout 1982–1992. He, notably, led Pakistan to victory at the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Pakistan’s first and only victory in this competition.
In April 1996, Khan founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ( Pakistan Movement for Justice), a centrist political party, and became the party’s national leader. He contested for a seat in the National Assembly in October 2002 and served as an opposition member from Mianwali until 2007. Khan was again elected to the parliament in the 2013 elections, when his party emerged as the second largest in the country by popular vote. He served as the parliamentary leader of the party and leads the third largest block of parliamentarians in the National Assembly since 2013 and his party also leads a coalition government in north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The cricketing legend remains a popular political figure and is the author of, among other publications, “Pakistan: A Personal History.”
Boldly, Khan publicly demanded a Pakistani apology towards the Bangladeshi people for the atrocities committed in 1971. He called the 1971 operation a “blunder” and likened it to today’s treatment of Pashtuns in the so called “war on terror”. Imran Khan is often mocked as “Taliban Khan” because of his pacifist stance regarding the war in North-West Pakistan. He believes in negotiations with Taliban and the pull out of the Pakistan Army from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). He is against US drone strikes and plans to disengage Pakistan from the US-led “ war on terror”. Khan also opposes almost all military operations, including the Siege of Lal Masjid.
In August 2012, the Pakistani Taliban issued death threats if he went ahead with his march to their tribal stronghold along the Afghan border to protest US drone attacks, because he calls himself a “liberal” – a term they associate with a lack of religious belief. On 1 October 2012, prior to his plan to address a rally in South Waziristan, senior commanders of Pakistani Taliban said after a meeting headed by the Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud that they now offered Khan security assistance for the rally because of Khan’s opposition to drone attacks in Pakistan, reversing their previous stance.
In terms of Kashmir, Khan views the issue as a humanitarian one , as opposed to a territorial dispute between two countries (India and Pakistan). He ruled out a military solution to the conflict and denied the possibility of a fourth war between India and Pakistan over the disputed mountainous region. Khan visited embassies of Iran and Saudi Arabia and met their head of commissions in Islamabad on 8 January 2015 to understand their stance about the conflict which is engulfing both nations after execution of Sheikh Nimrby Saudi Arabia. He urged the Government of Pakistan to play a positive role to resolve the matter between both countries.
In a statesmanlike address, Khan set out a grand vision for a new government that would end corruption in high places, protect the weak and ensure equal rights for all. But, the taint of a questionable victory, and the contentious aftermath of an election that toppled the ruling party, seems more likely to usher in a period of political turmoil than a smooth transition.
Khan’s party needs to win 141 seats to form the government.
According to provisional unofficial results, Imran Khan’ PTI has won majority seats (118 until the last count) to be able to form the government without any majority political alliance. He needs 172 seats out of the total National Assembly seats of 342 out of which 70 are reserved seats including 60 for women and 10 for minorities. With the help of independents and smaller parties, he is comfortably placed to form the next government. Imran Khan is the first cricketer to become the Prime Minister of a country till date. Many Cricketers has succeeded to become ministers but no one made it to such a political position. In fact , it is a great honour for all the cricketers in particular and for all sports persons in general.
With Imran Khan’s victory, the people of Jammu and Kashmir see a new hope that that it will have positive impact on the Kashmir dispute. I personally that that a forward movement will occur and, this time, hopefully with a realisation that without resolving disputes we can never ensure stability in the region and economic growth. I see a ray of hope that honourable peace will return.

The author is Social Activist and writes on various contemporary issues of import and can be reached at:sahilshabir@rocketmail.com

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