PM Imran’s Detractors Don't Realise Who They Are Up Against

PM Imran’s Detractors Don't Realise Who They Are Up Against
There are many forces up against premier Khan, but they do not realise who they are up against, and so they expect him to bow out anytime soon, but will it really happen?

After dismissing Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo in 1988, President General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq called Imran Khan and asked him to join his Cabinet. Khan declined, as neither had he hung his cricket boots, nor had it crossed his mind that he would ever enter the political arena. It was perhaps against this background in 1989 when during a test match, the entire National Stadium Karachi’s crowd spontaneously chanted in a rapture, “Prime Minister Imran Khan, Prime Minister Imran Khan”. Two decades later, after a marathon struggle, that slogan proved prophetic when Khan was finally administered the oath of Pakistan’s PM in 2018.

Only two years after occupying the hot seat of PM, his critics want him out! They have been clamoring of a 'minus-one formula' to oust him while letting Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) complete its five-year term. A laundry list of allegations has been leveled against him: he is a populist; he is incompetent; he makes U-turns; he has surrounded himself with sycophants; he is a 'selected prime minister'; he is a supporter of terror, so on and so forth.

Do these detractors really believe that Khan will run away and wilt under their pressure? They have a right to say whatever they want to except they don’t really know the man they are up against. He has never given up throughout his life while struggling to achieve his goals. To truly understand this, we will need to look at the glorious past of the incumbent premier and his skills to deal with the testing times.

In 1971, Khan was given a chance to play for Pakistan cricket team prematurely and perhaps unfairly as his two cousins were already playing for Pakistan. He got a shabby treatment as one of the senior cricketers, Sadiq Mohammad, ordered him to serve him a cup of tea at the Edgbaston’s dressing room. Khan felt humiliated but resolved to become a better cricketer so he could earn the respect of his fellow cricketers. As an ambitious youngster, he asked around to find any guidance to improve his bowling skills. Many advised him to become a medium pacer, but he didn’t want to earn wickets waiting for the batsmen to commit a mistake. Rather, he wanted them to be under the pressure of real fast bowling and then lose their wickets. When he asked one of his fellow bowlers Asif Masood, a medium pacer, who ultimately had a short career, to give some guidance about training for fast bowling, Masood gave a lackadaisical reply, “I run around the stadium and then I am ready to bowl.”

Khan consulted many top-rated bowlers to advise him about bowling and ultimately developed his own workout consisting of weightlifting, sprints, and long-distance runs, besides improving his run-up, which ended with a big leap before delivering the ball. With sheer hard-work and determination, he became a world-class athlete and the fastest bowler of the 1980s era. In 1982, at the peak of his bowling career, he sustained a career-threatening shin injury and many wrote him off. His leg was in a caste for several months as he wrote in his autobiography, All Round View, "Treatment would be six months — my leg would have to be put in a cast — for 10 hours a day I could hardly move — I will never forget my first run in Hyde Park; I felt like a bird freed from its cage." Unbelievably, Khan came out of the injury and played for Pakistan for another 10 years in the capacity of a fast-bowling, all-rounder.

Khan had realised the insecurities of Pakistani cricket team in 1977 on his way to the cricket stadium along with the senior members of the team to face the mighty West Indian team on the final day of the last test match in West Indies. There was a pin-drop silence in the van and the bunch of professional cricketers had already given up before entering the stadium! That day, Khan decided he will fight to the last ball of every game and he will inspire his team to not give up even in the most adverse circumstances. When he became the captain of Pakistan cricket team, he gave hope to the boys, led them from the front and, not only Pakistan became a respected outfit, but consistently defeated the best teams of the world.

Ultimately, Khan was holding the cricket World Cup high above his head in 1992, after his 'wounded tigers' came from behind supported by the lady luck, and overwhelmed the favorite England team in the final at Melbourne. Khan created a battery of fast bowlers by giving them his own workout plan. Pakistan, which was labelled as a land not suitable for birthing fast bowlers was then raining quick bowlers!

Soon after his retirement from cricket, Khan started working on realising his dream to build a world-class cancer hospital in memory of his mother Shaukat Khanum, who passed away as a consequence of a delayed diagnosis of colon cancer. Imran recalled in All Round View, "One day I went to buy medicine for my old man rushed in......I recognised the expression on his face......exactly the same......on the faces of my sisters and father......when my mother had spasm of pain......his expression revealed.....he didn’t have money for it....the man's brother was dying of chest cancer.....he had managed to get a bed in Mayo Hospital, Lahore.....he had run out of money for the medicine-----the pharmacist took Khan to the side, a special favour.....given me an imported brand....local ones were not that effective."

Khan realised if he had to make such an effort to get medicine for his mom, the suffering of the poor must be beyond imagination.

To be continued

Dr. Abdul Nadir M.D. is an Assistant Professor at University of Arizona, U.S. He is the head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Maroof International Hospital, Islamabad.