Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi, born on 5th October 1952 in Lahore, Punjab is the only son of Ikramullah Khan Niazi with his wife Shaukat Khanum. On his paternal side he is of Pashtun ethnicity and a descendent of Haibat Khan Niazi, one of Sher Shah Suri’s generals in the 16th century who also governed Punjab. Imran Khan hails from an upper middle class family and received a privileged education; in an interview with Huff post magazine he has talked about his childhood as growing up with a “security blanket”. He completed his graduation in 1975 from Kebble University, Oxford where he studied philosophy, economics and politics, finishing with honours.
Imran Khan: On the Field
Iman Khan started playing cricket at the age of 13. He made his debut at the age of 16 playing for Lahore and then played a Test match and first ODI against England after which he found a permanent place on the Pakistan national team in 1976. He made his mark as a fast bowler and his name is taken among those of Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev. Even though he resigned from captainship in 1987 he was brought back for the 1992 world cup. And the rest as they say is history. Pakistan won for the first and only time in the competition and Imran Khan would be accorded god like status among cricket lovers in Pakistan. He took retirement after the world cup win in 1992 from all formats of cricket.
His career was marred with a few controversies after he opened up post-retirement of having committed ball tampering with a bottle cap in a 1986 match and a libel action brought against him by English captain Ian Botham and batsman Allan lamb for calling them “ racist and ill-educated” in a newspaper article. Khan won the case and pleaded to having been misquoted in the newspaper article.
The second innings: Political Career
Khan founded his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), in 1996 and contested for a seat in the National Assembly in the General Election of 1997. He stood from the constituencies of Mianwali and Lahore and lost from both the places. He had better luck in the 2002 elections when he won from Mianwali and became a member of parliament. He was a pariah from mainstream politics for a while after he along with many other members of parliament resigned their position during the reign of the authoritarian military general Pervez Musharraf. He was put on house arrest and had to escape and flee the country. He returned to join protests against the corrupt government and spent a few days in jail too following arrest at one of the rallies.
As a politician, Khan had not been a formidable force until the 2013 general assembly polls. His popularity largely stemmed from his cricketing days and he was flocked at party rallies and campaigns by kids who wanted his autograph on bats. He was seen as a loved sportsman and respected public figure, but not quite as the leader of the nation. But finally, Khan had begun to be seen as a serious politician and a threat to major political parties after PTI won 30 seats in the Parliament and became the second largest party by popular vote.
Earning the tag of ‘playboy’ from the media, Imran was a darling of the paparazzi. In his younger days as a cricket sensation, he was quite the ladies man. Active on the London party and clubbing scene he was often clicked leaving the St James’ nightclub flanked by beautiful women. He was once voted Britain’s sexiest man alive. Imran was controversy’s favourite child off the field too it seems. He was dragged to court by long term girlfriend of 6 years, Sita White, over their love child, who Imran refused to accept as his own. However, after a paternity test and medical proof of the fact that he was infact, the father of the girl child, Imran had to publicly accept his daughter. Although in the succeeding years it does not seem that Imran took an active part in the upbringing of his daughter.
He married for the first time at the age of 43, tying the knot with the 21 year old Jemima Goldsmith who after marriage converted to Islam. They have two sons together – Sulaiman Isa and Kasim. They divorced in 2004 after a 9 year long marriage. His second marriage to British-Pakistani BBC journalist Reham Khan was an even briefer one. Married in 2015 in a private ceremony at Khan’s Islamabad residence, they filed for divorce the very next year.
His third and currently surviving marriage to religious figure Bushra Maneka had come under some confusion initially, with party representatives first denying rumours and then subsequently validating the marriage, which took place on January 1st of this year. Unfortunately, it seems that the third marriage too has run into some trouble. So apparently, third time’s not the charm.
Is there hope for Pakistan?
Imran khan’s campaigns having been backed by the Pakistani military and have seen his political ideologies along the stringent and devoutly religious lines. He has openly flirted with the Taliban and other Islamist outfits. There has been much speculation and outrage over the alleged rigging of election booths during the polls the world over, and call for a do-over by the other parties. However it seems that Imran Khan is all set to finally become Prime Minister. He made unrealistic promises of eradicating corruption in 90 days of his becoming PM (his own version of Modi’s ‘acche din’) but the sensible thing to do would be to set the bar low in our expectations.
Even though the world, and India, wants to believe that true democratization of Pakistan Is possible, the reality of Pakistan is an openly military backed government whose head has been given the title of Taliban Khan. He has voted in favour of a religious law that makes it impossible to prosecute rape cases and has shown support for illiberal blasphemy law.
In any case the solution is to reach out a hand of friendship to Imran Khan and see what he has envisioned for his country. It would be, in fact, completely premature to make a wager for his policies. He might just surprise us all. Here’s of course to being forever optimistic.