Will Imran Khan shine in Pakistan’s political innings?

By Kamna Arora | Last Updated: May 09, 2013, 14:40 PM IST

Kamna Arora

From his achievements on the dusty cricket pitch as the Pakistan captain to his journey in the labyrinthine politics, Imran Khan has come a long way.

The Oxford graduate, famous for his splashy social life (especially in the London nightclub circuit), is now set to play the wild card in the Pakistan’s General Elections, scheduled to be held on May 11. Imran turned into a national hero when he returned to Pakistan in 1992 from Melbourne with Cricket World Cup trophy in his hands. Often dismissed as a political non-entity, the 59-year-old cricketer-turned-politician is all set to turn the tables and is now expected to emerge as king or kingmaker in the upcoming polls.

No one can deny the fact that the chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) is a huge crowd puller. He has promised a new politics to smash the traditional two-party system. The wonderful orator has learnt almost all the skills of holding the public. The crowd, consisting mostly of youths, call him "The lion hunter”. Notably, lion is the election symbol of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) led by former premier Nawaz Sharif.

Imran Khan is expected to harm every other key candidate’s vote banks, especially Nawaz’s. Albeit the tragedy is that he won`t be able to cast his vote in his hometown of Mianwali because of his injury in a stage fall, yet the chances of him garnering sympathy votes can`t be ruled out.

Hardly the ruling Pakistani People’s Party has done much to change the fortunes of the Islamic Republic, giving an opportunity to all the political parties in fray to present themselves as the saviour of the nation mired with corruption and insurgency. Sixteen years after forming his party, Mr Khan is now optimistic enough to take advantage of the pity situation of Pakistan and secure the biggest victory of his life. He has already declared: “It will be a clean sweep…It is only a question of whether it will be a simple majority, or if we will get two-thirds.”

Born on November 25, 1952 in Lahore, Imran Khan is a weird but great mix of liberalism and conservatism. Some wonder how can one uphold liberalism and at the same time pledge obeisance to Islamic values and anti-West sentiment. But well, that is what Imran Khan is. Some even don’t take him seriously because of his volte face on many issues.

Also, his non-experience is another negative point. It is to be noted that his PTI has only ever won one of the 272 elected seats in the National Assembly. But can Imran Khan this time prove that he is not a mere slogan shouter and can muster votes too.

The man who married Jemima Goldsmith, the daughter of one of the richest men in the world Sir James Goldsmith, in 1995 and divorced in 2004 has two sons. It was his mother’s painful death from cancer that is said to be the turning point in his life. The hospital he built after his mother’s death in her remembrance is an example of his philanthropy. The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital is a milestone in a country in which rich don’t pay tax. The hospital, which was built through raising funds, treats needy patients for free.

His motto is to end corruption, he has campaigned against dynastic politics in Pakistan and does not only promise a new style of politics but also knows how to connect with the roots. Remember, his massive campaign against drone strikes. His gorgeous ex-wife, Jemima, in August 2011, had joined him in Islamabad for his rally against drone strikes.

Imran Khan’s party aims at collecting taxes from the rich and powerful and spend it on many things, especially for the education of girls. But won’t that annoy Pakistani Taliban, who usually bomb girls schools and last year attacked 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai. Imran Khan had visited Malala in hospital, but he is often observed as giving watered down statements against Taliban, probably in a bid to solidify right-wing votes.

But can he really win the show? The networks of both the key parties – the Pakistan Muslim League and the Pakistan People’s Party – among the rural population cannot be overlooked. The legacy of his late wife and father-in-law still works in favour of Asif Ali Zardari.

Hopes are not dim this time. This cannot just be ignored that in a country where two-thirds of the population are under 30, youth are Imran Khan`s fans. Reminiscence of Barack Obama’s slogan, Pakistan’s Newsweek recently declared: “Yes He Khan”.