Imran Khan: From cricketing aristocrat to political player
Imran Khan is a former international cricketer-turned-politician who launched his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party in 1996. But it is only in recent months that he has emerged as a serious player on the Pakistani political scene.
His most recent manoeuvre is a bid to extend competitive politics to Pakistan's north-western tribal belt, a region governed by tribal customs and traditional elders.
He is organising a long march to Waziristan to protest against US drone strikes. Critics say this is simply to revive flagging popularity but supporters say it shows he is in touch with the ordinary concerns of Pakistani people.
Mr Khan had an illustrious career in international cricket, spanning two decades during the 1970s and 80s. He was the most successful Pakistani cricket captain, leading his team to their only World Cup triumph in 1992.
He also developed a reputation as something of a playboy on the London nightclub circuit, though he denies that he ever drank alcohol or engaged in any activities that may be considered inappropriate for a conservative Pakistani Muslim.
Many say his subsequent forays into the fields of philanthropy and politics were a desire to put to use the leadership qualities he displayed and the goodwill he earned internationally as a cricketer.Sagging popularity
One of Mr Khan's lasting achievements has been to raise worldwide funds to set up one of Pakistan's most well-established cancer treatment facilities - the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, named after his mother. The hospital was opened in 1996, the year he launched his party.
Cricketing success has kept Mr Khan in the spotlight long after the end of his sporting career
As a politician, Mr Khan's views have often shifted or been somewhat vague. Many accuse him of taking U-turns on issues, something that prevents people from taking him seriously.
He upholds liberalism but at the same time appeals to Islamic values and anti-West sentiment.
He has been campaigning against corruption and dynastic politics in Pakistan, and has promised to raise a whole new class of "clean" politicians from the platform of his PTI party.
But a surge in his popularity late last year saw his party accept within its folds a long list of traditional politicians deserting their respective parties for greener pastures ahead of the coming elections.
These politicians flocked to the PTI following Mr Khan's huge political rally in the eastern city of Lahore late last year.
Soon afterwards, another big rally in Karachi seemed to establish him as a serious contender on the political scene - finally coming into his own after dabbling in the political wilderness for more than a decade.
But his popularity has been sagging in recent months, due mainly to questions over whether he could seriously bring about change with a team that comprises tried and tested politicians.
This has also led to squabbles within his party, leading to the exit of some prominent old-timers.
Some of the newcomers to the party have also deserted it in recent months, indicating an erosion of public support, at least for now.Itinerant path
While his domestic political career has had its highs and lows, Imran Khan has remained in the spotlight because of his status as a national cricketer and, in 1995, at the age of 43, he married the 21-year-old British socialite, Jemima Goldsmith - the daughter of one of the richest men in the world, Sir James Goldsmith.
Imran Khan and Jemima Goldsmith's union was dissolved in 2004 but the couple remain friends
The marriage produced two boys but was dissolved in 2004.
Those who have been following the couple's career closely say their marriage suffered due to differences in their cultural, social and financial backgrounds and also due to the itinerant nature of Mr Khan's political career that kept him away from home.
The dissolution was amicable, and Mr Khan appears to have maintained a friendly relationship with his ex-wife.
In August 2011 she joined him in Islamabad for a campaign against drone strikes in which she was reported to have distributed cameras to some tribesmen to record evidence of civilian deaths because of such strikes.
It is hard to overestimate the impact of drone strikes on Pakistani sentiment. It is a cause of significant public anger and discontent.
Whether or not Imran Khan and his party can reap electoral benefits from such resentment is still unclear. For the time being, the popularity of the march to Waziristan will be a measure of his ability to rally public support.
M Ilyas Khan BBC