1992 World Cup (Cricket) on TV today took me away from Benazirabad (where I am posted these days as Deputy Commissioner) to regions of familiarity, particularly the times when I had had interactions with Imran Khan, first time in 2002 (I forget the month) at Civil Services Academy, Lahore, Pakistan.
At the Academy, he was invited as a guest speaker. He was to deliver his speech on the future of politics to not less than 206 civil servants undergoing their Common Training Program (commonly known as CTP) at the Walton Campus. He had bidden farewell to Cricket for long and had by then been known to the world as a politician. It was first time for me to hear and see him face to face. His speech, like his personality, was awesome, principally for the obvious reasons that he was as direct as a layperson could be. He spoke against everything that we could think of and expect from him. He did not know or show any twisting of thoughts or arguments, he did not seem to stretch any known fact to his benefit (as the majority of the audience spoke so), he did not puzzle his audience with his eloquence (as is not the case with most politicians here), and just conveyed his message as an educated person could before an educated lot. I still remember his focus: revival of judiciary, amelioration of education and betterment of health. Perhaps it was his manifesto for the elections, I don’t precisely remember. But his throbbing voice, as he sometimes caught the vessel of emotions, earned him no disgrace at the tyrannical hands of the probationary civil servants, who could easily kill (metaphorically) any person with their embarrassing and probing questions. He was also thrown questions by several probationers but he responded well. Most of them remarked, even after the event, (from memory again) “He can claim to do all good because he has not been tested yet, so we’ve no option but to agree to what he says. His credentials are not before the public so far as politics is concerned; the credentials of cricket have nothing to help us evaluate him”. Indeed, it triggered discussions the very day in his favor and against, but I still remember my questions that I had asked him: “Dear, Sir (Imran Khan), what if the chimera of local politics as it is hits your nerves and fells you for good and all?” His reply was: “I take this chimera of politics as a hard ball, and I am sure I would hit it hard for a six!” Cool. Whatever the response, it was his leadership that brought this country the first World Cup in Cricket.
The second time I met him in 2003 (again I forget the month) at the National Stadium (Cricket), Karachi, Pakistan. I had accompanied Shaikh Rasheed Ahmed (Federal Minister Broadcasting and Information) as a Public Relations Officer (PRO). I was attached to his ministry as PROs generally were/are. Prior to my attachment to his ministry, I was attached to several other Federal Ministries like the one headed by Zubaida Jalal (Federal Ministry for Education), Abdus Sattar Lalika (Federal Ministry for Labor, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis), Shokat Aziz (Federal Ministry for Finance; Shokat Aziz afterwards became Prime Minister of Pakistan) and Nisar Memon, who headed the Federal Ministry of Broadcasting and Information.
To cut the long story really short, it was a match between India and Pakistan. One can understand the HEAT exuding from the ones who watched the match on the TV screens and the ones who witnessed the match live in stadium with me. The Minister (Shaikh Rasheed Ahmed) approached Imran Khan while he crossed our seat, and began to engage him. Before the Minister could grab much of Imran’s time, I barged in and reminded him of the Civil Services Academy event. He was glad to meet one of those civil servants whom he had talked to years ago. He smiled, and as he was busy, left. The Minister was not happy with Imran’s, as he termed, rude behavior, so he returned to his seat, utterly disappointed. But sadness on Shaikh’s face evaporated, and happiness traveled through his body and nerves within moments, because Sonia Gandhi had just entered the stadium, as the announcement went. (Sonia Gandhi deserves some other post; so does Jemima Khan, indeed not without Imran’s entry. This post was meant for Imran).
Third time I met Imran at Imperial College, London in 2008. I was doing my M.Sc in Management from the University of Surrey, Guildford (38 miles south west of London, to be precise). I was invited by my friend, Asim Rehman Shaikh, who then did his Ph.D. from the same college (Imperial College, London). We were joined by Pir Mohammad Shah, my batch mate from 29th CTP in Police Department, who was also under training at London School of Economics, and also joined by Faisal Khokhar, who did his M. Sc from Royal Holloway College. Imperial College was the same college where I would watch Pervaiz Musharaf (the then President of Pakistan and Chief of Army) sometime in future propagating his ideology. Imran’s speech was quite fantastic, mostly humorous in the beginning. I still remember he shared a joke on a dog and a lion, and thus paved the way for his speech. We had a wonderful time listening to him. I videoed his lecture and took some of his pictures. All of that stuff is in Karachi presently. Next time, I will add some of it.
Post-national-election scenario (May 2013)has brought Imran plenty of opportunity to excel as a mature politician: on the one hand, he is ruling through the PTI government in KPK province, and on the other, he is actively participating as one of the leaders (in generic terms) of opposition at the national level.
© M. Syre