"IMRAN KHAN : A PRAYER FOR PAKISTAN" ; Translated article from french newspaper
IMRAN KHAN : A PRAYER FOR
Cricket's world former champion, international playboy, wants to be Prime Minister. After fifteen years of struggle in political world, he's about to achieve.
The pipers and drummers beating a frenzied pace, speakers blaring Pakistani pop and rap. The crowd presses against the gates of the cricket stadium despite the baton of the officers attempting to control the crowd. Gujar Khan's stadium is in a lost village in Punjab, its an dusty field surrounded by rickety bleachers, but the 20.000 or 30.000 people didn't come to see a match. Imran Khan captain of the team that had won Pakistan's only World Cup in 1992, he no longer plays cricket. He embarked on a sport more ferocious : politics.
The former playboy, with his rock star look, who haunted the London nightclubs with wife at this time, Jemina Goldsmith, a British-Jewish millionaire, now frequent the electorate ultra-fundamentalists and tries to gather Pakistan's Taliban modern wing. He exchanged the jet-set for help poor people, in a country where nearly a quarter of the 180 million people undergo regularly famine. Imran Khan divorced his wife in 2004, seeing rarely his children, who went back to London with their mother, he travels around the country in a protected car. His aim : become the Prime Minister.
The party he founded, Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice in Pakistan PTI) was a minor party in the nation politics for fifteen years. Where the families parties almost alternate in power, between military coup and murders. Although admired for his status as sportsman, Imran was seen for a long time as a political marginal, even as a populist with a unstable policies and changing alliances. But his struggle against the corruption and his free hospital, eventually emerged his personality. His party's gatherings have attracted recently more than 100.00 people in Karachi and Lahore, and commentators suggest a possible tsunami in the general elections scheduled for later this year or early 2013.
This Friday, Imran Khan's gigantic posters are displaced each 100 meters on the road to Gujar Khan. Overcrowded buses, full of Imran 's supporters took this road in order to attend the gathering. A convoy got strafed by a political rival through the village. There were two serious injuries. The same day, further south in Punjab, a family council decided to put to death a newly married couple, because they get married without parental consent. Further East, a U.S drone attack killed 16 people in the province of Waziristan. “It's a violent country, that's why a complete break from the system as propose by Imran raised so much hope” explains, one of former cricketer's assistant also philosopher.
In the stadium, the crowd suddenly becomes agitated. Protected by his escort which had difficulty to find his way, Imran climbs rickety containers that serve as carpeted platform. The announcer's voice ignites. It heralds the arrival of “Khan Tsunami”, the man who wants to clean up Pakistani politics. To see the fervour of his slogan cheering in chorus, we can believe that he has a chance...
The next day, the calm is back, Imran Khan back to his villa designed by his former wife, top of Islamabad's hills, backed by Himalayas beautiful foothills. Despite of his age (59), Imran Khan kept his athletic body and a polite attitude but a little bit rude as best British schools former student and then of Oxford's student. However, his eyes shine, his breath becomes faster when he talks about his political hopes.
PARIS Match : You were seen as an outsider, what did you do to change people minds ?
Imran Khan : The determination is very important in politics, you have to believe that at the end the result would be in your favour. It's like in cricket : you can lose a lot of matches, but as long as you believe that there is a chance, you are not defeated. I started playing cricket when I was 9, and I always confident about that a day I ll win the World Cup. Pakistani team had a lot of difficulties but at the end we won. I think that because of cricket I got the discipline and strength needed to persevere during my fifteen years of struggle, since I have founded my party.
However, how do you explain this sudden success of your party in a few months ?
Since fifteen years, I struggling against the growing corruption by this country leaders. The leaders of traditional parties, Bhutto's clan (former Prime Minister; murdered in 2007) and Nawaz Sharif (another former Prime Minister) are true Mafia. They stole billions of dollars, proved. Nobody trusts them any more. In 2010, when there were a flood in Pakistan, I was the only one to who people accepted to donate money because they trusted me. Because they knew I was the only one who would really help those people in need. Since, we got more and more memberships.
PM : What alternative do you offer ? In what your are more credible ?
IK : On the corruption its obvious. I had published my heritage as in Western countries, I am also the one who had shown his tax card. The others amass fortunes that they send to abroad, I have made my fortune in abroad but I repatriated to Pakistan. In addition to, I have no personal fortune. This villa, I built it by selling my England's house.
“America suppose to be our ally but their drones attack us each week, my people are humiliated ”.
PM :Who are your members ?
IK : we use internet a lot, that's why we got a lot of young people and from big cities. In the provinces, feudal system is still there, and local lords strictly control the electorate, as they were managing animals. But things are changing. Even in countryside, we are creating a groundswell. Our party has a million registered members, and we are expecting to quadruple their number in three coming months. Anyway, it will be our only way to win and break the status quo : by changing everything. That's why we started calling me 'Tsunami khan”.
PM : because of your anti-political 's critiques, some consider you as an agent linked with Army to maintain the control.
IK : It is not true, I am independent of Army and of ISI (very powerful secret service). Moreover, I opened an investigation in order to expose them, to prove that they had paid millions of dollars to competing parties. If I become Prime Minister, I will ensure that the Army respects the Constitution and finally stop influencing politics. If the Army is so empowered today, it is because the absence of a civilian leadership.
PM : You are accused to be a populist, you want vote of fundamentalist, you want to be their ally with radical parties and you criticize America. What would be your program if you are elected ?
IK : I am not populist, I am rational. The American have failed in Afghanistan and NATO has to go. In Pakistan, we suffered 40.000 dead since the beginning of the “war against terrorism”, and for what ? The Pakistanis have never been so humiliated in their history. Our citizens are arrested without trial, imprisoned at Guantanamo.
PM : However, many describe Pakistan as “the most dangerous country in the world”, seen as a supporter of Taliban and many other militias in a hidden war against India, armed with nuclear weapons. Do you think that this country can covert up without Washington's support ?
Yes, and in any case, the conditions could not be worse now. Concerning India; I am in favour of sincere negotiations that would resolve once and for all the status of Kashmir (region contested by the two countries). I was always against nuclear power and when we reach a real solution, I will support a bilateral nuclear disarmament. Regarding the Taliban, it is largely a non-issue. Islam is a religion of moderation. There is let say 5% of extremist ideologues who have thrived because of U.S violence. The rest are just frustrated Afghans and Pakistanis because they invade their country or attack them. If drones attacks ended, the Pakistani Army 's operations in the tribal areas on the border, and terrorism would ended to.
PM : Is that true that you divorced your wife, because it was impossible for you to win by being married to a British ?
IK : My schedule as Politician is very tight, that probably not helped in a couple life, but Jemima and I divorced for personal reasons. We are still close even if she had remake her life separately and me to. We are still in touch and our sons (Suleiman and Kasim, 16 and 14) come often here to see me. Jemima led a demonstration when I was imprisoned, she also came to Pakistan a few months ago for a rally that I have organised against drone attacks.
PM : You can be elected head of a conservator country without being married ?
IK : I think so. Anyway, if the question is 'Should I get married to become Prime Minister ?” Then the answer is no. I am ready to do everything to help my country, really everything? But I am not willing to get married just to win elections (laughs).
PM : Do you fear for you security ? Politics is dangerous au Pakistan ?
IK : It's dangerous, sometimes vicious. I am attacked, slander. And my party is gaining power, it's irritating Mafia. Of course, there are risks of terrorism acts or murder. I am told to take more precautions. But that won't stop me. I believe in destiny and I have a job to do. I am not afraid of death.
Translated article from french newspaper