Imran Khan’s journey to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan has been filled with rejection, despair, jubilation, gloom, defeat, and triumph. From captaining the Pakistan Cricket to its first and only World Cup glory back in 1992 to be on the verge of becoming the next Prime Minister of the nation, Imran Khan has traversed a long way. This is the second time in the country’s coup-stricken history that a successive democratic government is being voted into power. Imran Khan was at the forefront in the election limelight for his intense campaigning against the incumbent government and for the election promises he made. He offered a renewed sense of optimism to the Pakistani population and is the country’s best bet to get over with the dynastic politics of his rivals Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan’s People’s Party. The cricketer-turned-politician is set to preside over the Prime Minister’s seat for the next five years. Imran Khan is set to give impetus in improving the sour relations with neighbouring India. He is looking forward to resolving Kashmir issue- that has seen bloodshed on both sides of the border with millions directly affected, through comprehensive dialogue with his Indian counterpart.
From captaining Pakistan Cricket team to captaining the country
In 1992, not many would have expected Pakistan cricket team to become the World Champions, but right when the team needed their captain to lead them, Imran Khan delivered a match-winning innings with bat and got a crucial wicket. The World Cup glory was the last tournament of an illustrious career and captaincy, Imran Khan was one of the best all-rounders among his contemporaries. Post-retirement, he worked closely on building one of the finest hospitals in all of Pakistan with best-in-class facilities.
In 1997, the charismatic former captain ventured into the murky world of politics launching Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) on Pakistan’s political scene. The initial years were full of disappointments and despair for the political novice in Imran Khan. He remained adamant even after several failures, but slowly and steadily he was gaining political foothold among supporters. His anti-corruption crusades and opposition to the dynasty politics in Pakistan were making him a household name for his political work. He was now becoming the face of new political uprising in a country that has seen turbulent times due to instability, military coups, widespread corruption, nepotism, and most importantly a credible leader solely focused on the development of Pakistan.
The massive disappointment of 2013 Pakistan General Elections pushed him into oblivion. But, change of tactics, mind and a strong political campaign, saw his popularity rise as a political leader rather than the captain who led Pakistan to its only World Cup glory. In the run-up to 2018 General Elections in Pakistan, Imran Khan became the sole candidate to get hold of the Prime Minister’s seat as a weakening opposition and growing faith of people in PTI propelled him to the top of the ladder.
The shift in ideology
Born in an affluent Pashtun family, Imran Khan was brought up in an elite environment. He went to the United Kingdom for his studies, graduating from Oxford shaped much of Imran’s intellect. He was a liberal thinker who would stand up against the wrong and defend the right. Infamous for his alleged affairs, Imran Khan married the daughter of an influential business-tycoon from UK. He has been active in philanthropy by establishing hospitals and helping out the needy. In 2011, Salman Taseer, the then Governor of Punjab (Pakistan) was shot 26 times by Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri for blasphemy. He was the bodyguard of Salman Taseer, Imran strongly condemned and criticized the government’s failure to protect the Governor. Imran staunchly criticised the conservative clerics in his autobiography, Pakistan-A personal history, for the venom that they have spread in Pakistan through zealotry and radical views pertaining to blasphemy. However, things changed for cricketer-turned-politician when he and his party came a distant third in the 2013 General elections. From being a liberal to having regressive views on the women, things have changed for Imran in the last 20-odd years of his political journey with PTI. Imran Khan once envisioned and recently after electoral results spoke about recreating MA Jinnah’s Pakistan, a Pakistan that was built on secular lines but after his death became an autocratic Islamist state. But, during his election campaign, Imran Khan has been vocal about creating a Pakistan based on the seventh century Medina, defending Article 295C of Pakistan’s Constitution that awards death penalties against blasphemy, his rhetoric on “good terrorism and bad terrorism” defines the transition he has made. From being the flamboyant liberal to becoming the conservative Islamist, the politics of Pakistan has sure changed the man who once set out to change Pakistan.
Reactions in India
Imran Khan’s electoral success has seen mixed reactions from India. New Delhi is aware of the backing and supports the former cricketer-turned-politician enjoys from the Pakistani army and right-wing Islamist groups, thus, they are aware of the stance of the Imran Khan’s government towards India. Many in politics believe that any policy of Imran Khan will be influenced by both right-wing elements and the Pakistani army. However, the press conference conducted by Imran Khan after the electoral mandate gave a glimmer of hope that the situation between India and Pakistan can improve. He asked both the countries to end the political blame-game as it will never resolve the problems plaguing both the countries while asking to solve the Kashmir issue by coming to the table with an open mindset. Imran Khan categorically stated that Pakistan is willing to take two steps forward if India is willing to take one. Even though, there is skepticism within the Indian political class, India would welcome any move that helps in fostering the relations between the neighbouring countries. The rivalry has damaged both the nations economically, politically, and emotionally with the countless number of deaths on both sides of the border and still no concrete conclusion. India as of now remains a neutral spectator but would be closely monitoring the political scenario in Pakistan unfold, while hoping that the new regime will bring in the peace and stability in the region.