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Imran Khan: Coming of age and a well documented affair with the Pakistan army

By Vicky Nanjappa
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    Islamabad, July 26: Imran Khan is all set to become the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. As he gets set to begin his new innings, India would watch with bated breath as Khan has very often in the recent past been accused of being a puppet of the Pakistan army.

    Pakistani politician Imran Khan

    Several political observers say that it would be too early to say if he would continue to remain a puppet of the army. In Imran Khan, there is plenty of hope, especially in Pakistan as the man is a national obsession. Historian William Dalrymple, wrote in the chapter profiling Imran Khan in his book, The age of Kali, " the man is a national obsession. He combines the status of royalty, the prestige of a cabinet minister and the gossip value of a pop star."

    The birth of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-insaaf (PTI) took birth at a time when Pakistan was mired in corruption. In the late 1990s, Pakistan had been named as the second most corrupt country in the world. In November 1996, the Benazir Bhutto government was prematurely dissolved for corruption.

    The birth of the PTI took place at this time and Imran Khan had promised to root out corruption from the country. From the word go, he was a darling of the media and the fact that he had led Pakistan to a World Cup victory in Australia only added to his stature.
    Since the birth of the PTI, its primary agenda had been to root out corruption. While addressing the press at the launch of his party, he had said that the aim was to end all kinds of exploitation and ensure that there is honesty, merit and integrity in Pakistan.

    However, the first elections that his party contested ended in disaster. Madiha Tahir, noted Pakistani journalist wrote, " he had been called dangerous and naive and described as a man whose supporters feed his delusion of being the messiah that Pakistanis await."

    Although the PTI did not fare in the previous elections, Imran Khan managed to remain in the news. It was his party that conducted the research which led to the ouster of the Benazir Bhutto government. Dalrymple wrote, " it was the research by Imran's workers that led to the revelation of Benazir Bhutto owning a £ 2.5 million manor house in Surrey, a £ 3.5 million Chelsea townhouse, two luxury apartments in Belgravia and a Normandy chateau."

    Despite initial setbacks, Imran Khan held his own. His moment of reckoning came in 2013, when his party emerged as the second largest party. His campaign tone in 2013 had changed. Form corruption, he had moved on to targeting America and its war on terror.

    His moment of reckoning is here, but the big question is will he be the puppet of the dangerous Pakistan army? Imran Khan has denied these allegations, but history would show how close he is to the army in Pakistan. His affair with the Pakistan army has been a long-standing one and documented as well. Tahir goes on to list his association with the army. She writes," Certainly Imran Khan has been uncomfortably close to various military figures."

    "General Zia called him out of his retirement from cricket. It was General Hamid Gul, the former ISI chief often dubbed the 'father of the Taliban' and Muhammad Ali Durrani, the then head of Jamaat-e-Islami youth wing, who encouraged Khan to enter politics and assisted him," Tahir further states.

    Observers in India had always maintained that it was clear from the start that Imran Khan would win the elections in Pakistan. The army had backed him to the hilt, all along. Will he continue to remain the puppet or will be speak his own mind. Time would tell.

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