I have wondered about Imran Khan. In that post, I quipped that he flirted with mullahs for five seconds. Since that post, Khan has garnered a lot of attention for his “role” in the Newsweek-Qur’an story [aside: I must admit that I was amiss in my reading of the protests in that post. I failed to note that the Qur’an story was just a late fuel on an otherwise burning fire. The increasing hostilities in Afghanistan and their tensions with Pakistan point to that.] and accusations that his “flirting” is more than that and that he is a new strain of militant Islam. Newsweek, and others, pointed that it was Imran Khan who lit the spark leading to riots etc. and that he did so for his own political purposes.
Since then, the international media has decided to take a closer look at Imran Khan. In a WaPo piece, John Lancaster describes the evolution of the playboy cricketer into a political player. In the piece Khan credits a Lahori mystic for his awakening to the public cause. To the critique of opportunism in his alliance with MMA, he responds that it is all to keep the heat on The General. The Daily Times lashed out pretty harshly against the story – branding him a man crazed by mystics and used by mullahs.
In a recent interview with AFP’s Danny Kemp, Imran Khan responded to the accusation that it was his role in the Newsweek story that caused violence:
Khan sternly rejects suggestions that he brought up the Koran allegations to further his career. “I think that for people like me who understand both the west and Islam, it’s very important for me to speak out. “If it happens again I will speak out against it.”
I must admit that I am still ambivalent about him. If he has spirituality or a sufi guide, that does not make him a toady for Fazlur Rahman. In fact, Rahman would frown mightily upon such mystical guidance. The key graf is later in the same story:
Imran Khan may or may not be an opportunist. If he is, he is really bad at it. His spirituality is also his business. He remains, on the balance, a marginal figure. What does matter is that he is someone who continues to get headlines for criticizing The General. That puts him in my good book. Maybe my judgment is clouded because I am sympathetic to his social causes as well. Perhaps his calls against The General are self-serving and whatnot. I don’t care. My contention is for the lack of democracy in Pakistan – not for uniquely honest politicians.