But where will he find his Wasim, Waqar or even a Miandad to take Pakistan forward
Imran Khan’s 1992 World Cup winning team was nothing if not tenacious. In the memorable semi-final against New Zealand, they knocked out the co-hosts thanks to a (then) chubby kid called Inzamam-ul-Haq coming out of nowhere to smack the Kiwi attack into the Tasman Sea. In the final too, England looked like favourites, this was a team featuring England’s ‘Golden Generation’ including Ian Botham but the Pakistanis realised that they were just a little past their prime and so enter Wasim Akram, who produced one of the finest bowling displays of his one-day career, perhaps the finest because of the importance of that match. And even in Test Cricket, Imran Khan led an tremendous team featuring the tempestuous Javed Miandad. But Imran, so fiery on the field, was also a personable sort of guy — his visits to Mumbai were legendary — and when he finally married (for the first time), it was London socialite and Jewish heiress Jemima Goldsmith who was half his age.
But while Imran has retained his fiery nature, his ability to command crowds and his tenacity, his personality has changed a lot. And despite knowing that Pakistan’s Generals might be conducting the show, the question that haunts Pakistan, its neighbours, including India, and the world at large given its status as the world’s Number One exporter of terror, is what will Pakistan’s presumptive Prime Minister and his party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) be like in power. The questions about a man once famously described as ‘Im the Dim’ are being asked not just in New Delhi and Washington DC but also in China, Pakistan’s newest banker. The fact is that Imran has railed against not just America and India but also several projects being funded by Beijing in Pakistan, including Lahore’s brand-new, spanking Metro. Can Pakistan’s Generals who, after having eased him to power in an election that will always remain questionable, control him fully and ensure his policies and pronouncements are aligned to the strategic aims of the deep state? To be clear, Imran does have a lot of support among the public and would have won a sizeable number of seats even without Army backing (though nowhere near the final PTI tally) in a free and fair election. He is also very popular among middle-level and lower-level officers in the Army. But the defenestration of Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League could not have been done without active military support. The other thing is, as Imran’s first ex-wife tweeted on his victory congratulating him, to remind him why he entered politics in the first place. Part of the answer will be that Imran wanted to change Pakistan and, after his experience of building the cancer hospital in his mother’s memory, wanted to ‘develop’ his country. But his outbursts against India, the US and even China are worrying as is the political company he keeps. Because while in cricket Imran had a team of capable, committed players who lifted their teammates, in politics it has pretty much been Imran alone. In that sense he is an emerging demagogue like so many other established ones in the world today, from Russia to Turkey and further afield.
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