Finding His Religion

Posted by sepoy on July 06, 2005 · 4 mins read

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:

"I didn't read it in Newsweek, people were calling me up ... Everyone now approaches me in Pakistan, they don't approach the political parties, because they are afraid to deal with such issues," he says. "Whatever kind of Muslim you are, it's the most hurtful thing you can do and to make it out as if it's the reaction of extremists is wrong," he adds. "The US are losing the war for hearts and minds. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, desecration of the Koran. They will create more terrorists."
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:

His opponents - and some of his supporters - have criticised him for lacking vision about whether he wants Pakistan to be secular or Islamic, pro or anti-West, conservative or liberal. They say Khan has also wavered in his political dealings, backing Musharraf before turning on him as an American stooge, and then aligning himself with the religious right. Rubbish, says Khan, insisting his ideals are "completely coherent", focusing on the rule of law, democracy and education in a country that is conspicuously short of all three. [emphasis mine]

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.


Zia | July 06, 2005

C'mon - are you really ambivalent about a man who voted for "Maulana" Fazlur Rehman for PM?

sepoy | July 06, 2005

Zia: From the WaPo piece: "It wasn't a vote for Fazlur Rehman," Khan said of his support for the cleric. "It was a vote against Musharraf." I re-draw your attention to my concluding paragraph.

Zia | July 07, 2005

Regardless. A vote for Amin Fahim would have been a vote against Musharraf too.

Zia | July 07, 2005

Related opinion piece in the Daily Times.

Umar | July 07, 2005

In fact the PPPP candidate for PM was the very eloquent Shah Mehmood Qureshi... But I agree, a vote for him would've been a vote against Musharraf too...

sepoy | July 07, 2005

Zia & Umar: I concede your point.

Sin | July 11, 2005

I was stuck in Nathiagali one weekend, while he had a flaming argument with the PPP's Sherry Rehman. It experience. He's unarguably eloquent by the way, surprisingly so. The problem is that he doesn't really generate enough of a personality option for one to take him seriously. Maybe that was just me though, since cricket does nothing for me whatsoever.

Umar | July 11, 2005

I think the PPP is one of his pet peeves... in fact the pet peeve... he finds no problem in flirting with military dictators (Zia and Musharraf) and parties on the right of the political spectrum (The various PML factions and the MMA), but there's something about the PPP that he finds hard to swallow...

Sohail | July 11, 2005

Sepoy, I dont believe the last few lines starting "... What does matter...." are yours.