The Cricketing Playboy turned Prime Minister

For those of you who aren’t aware, Pakistan is important to me for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it’s where my family are from. My grandad was born in Lahore. His father was in charge of operating the railways in India during partition in 1947. My mum briefly grew up there and did her undergraduate studies at Government College, Lahore. I’ve unfortunately never ventured out there, and although I’m trying to make it an aim within the next two years, I still feel some trepidation about visiting a country where my family have so much history, and not all of it good…

I’ve heard hundreds of stories from both my grandad and mum, explaining the beauties of living there and how much they long to return. But, with our family being as dysfunctional as it is, a visit over there could be met with varying degrees of hostility.

So, I guess you could say that from hearing a plethora of family tales about Pakistan, I’ve naturally developed a vested interest.

Also, let us not forget its gargantuan size, with a population of 197 million people. It’s an emerging economic power, with an ever-growing relationship with China and, oh yeah, it’s in the middle of a conflict with India over Kashmir. So, if you ask me, it’s pretty interesting anyway.

But who is the leader of a country with so much political corruption, conflict and military intimidation?

This chap.

Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi is the 22nd and current Prime Minister of Pakistan, as well as being Chairman of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf).

Unlike most politicians, Imran was a successful cricketer who captained the Pakistan National Team to World Cup glory in 1992. Like most young sportsmen, he was a bit of a playboy and his celebrity status meant he was also one of Pakistan’s most successful exports.

So, as one of the most talked-about sportsmen on the planet, how did he go from cricketer to politician? He’d made it clear in various interviews that politics was not for him. However, just in case we didn’t already know, anyone who says that usually ends up doing exactly the opposite.

In 1996, Imran founded the political party PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf). Its political leaning is that of a liberal/centrist party, and although I don’t claim to be a world expert on Mr Khan, what doesn’t surprise me is that he created this centrist Pakistani movement around the same time that both Tony Blair came to power (a fellow centrist) and Bill Clinton was also President of the United States (the man who kicked off the whole centrist trend in modern times).

Maybe he was inspired by the two of them – who knows? Yet, despite this, I wouldn’t really come to the conclusion that Imran Khan was somebody who upheld a great many liberal values. He has spoken previously about promoting feminism, yet this is the same man who failed to condemn (i.e. endorsed) the terrorist group that shot Malala Yousef and, in the eyes of his government, a single mother is not allowed to be recognised as the head of the household. These are just a few examples of Imran failing to stand up for the women in his society.

Questions should also be raised about the army’s involvement in Prime Minister Khan’s ascent to office. Since partition in the 1940s, Pakistan’s military has seen either direct or indirect control over the government. The army has used their influence and backed candidates who have then gone on to be elected, which – surprise, surprise! – last time round was Imran.

One method of intimidation has been trying to control how journalists and media companies portray their candidates, obviously seeking as favourable coverage as possible. This is hardly the mark of a true liberal. A true liberal shouldn’t shy away from amicable debate, a true liberal shouldn’t seek assistance from a military group in order to seal a democratic victory and a true liberal shouldn’t cower from terrorist groups or seek to limit the free speech of an entire nation.

There is nothing clever or liberal about Prime Minister Khan’s leadership.