Imran Khan, a name, a recognition, an achievement, an honour, a legendary cricketer and a revolutionary leader. A lucky human being who has been selected for the betterment of humanity. Words perhaps lose their strength and introduction of this legendary remain unfinished. We are fortunate that today this legendary human being is present with us.
No one can dispute the fact that Imran Khan is a hero to all patriotic Pakistanis. But a hero to one can be a villain to some other person. Some claim he is juvenile where politics is concerned, while others hail him as the only leader sans corruption. We caught up with him for an in-depth tête-à-tête. Here goes…
Us: Would you care to share some of your childhood memories with Us?
Imran Khan: Well, the decade between eight to 18 of my life revolved around Aitchison College and Zaman Park, Lahore. My Alma Mater was at a walking distance from my home, so I used to go to school on foot. I still remember, after school I used to look for someone to play cricket with me. But usually no one was ready to play in sheer summers and then, as a last resort, I had to request my sisters to bowl to me. And, amusingly, whenever they saw me coming towards them along with my bat and ball, they hid themselves. I still cherish these memories.
Imran Khan: My parents were very concerned because I was very shy; they wanted me to overcome this trait.
Us: Let’s talk about your college life. Were you studious, or did you possess a versatile persona, just as you do today?
Imran Khan: I always maintained a balance between studies and sports. Managing studies and international sports in one go require a lot of effort because both of them entail full time attention and concentration. Where education trains your mind, sports prepares you physically. It teaches you the dynamics of success and failure. That’s why once you are done with it successfully, you become matchless.
Us: The adulation you enjoy is probably just routine for you, but how did it feel in the beginning when you were young?
Imran Khan: I don’t know what to say…. Regardless of one’s personality, it is success that makes a man or a woman attractive. They say, “Nothing succeeds like success.” So whether you are good looking or not, if you are successful, you automatically become attractive. There are innumerable examples where not so good-looking successful men have a huge female fan club.
Imran Khan: There are two things. First is education. The more you study, the more you know, how less you know. Education makes you realise how small you are! And the other thing is when a man sees ups and downs in his life; he always remains down to earth. When we got defeated by India at their home ground, customs authorities had to keep us at the airport for more than three hours as people were fuming outside. And, on the other hand, there was a time when again a mob of people was there but this time to welcome us, when we returned after winning the World Cup. So such events have great lessons for a man.
Us: What was the difference between you and your contemporaries?
Imran Khan: Allah grants different abilities to every human being. Some are mentally sharp, some are physically strong, some have technical minds and some own a philosophical personality. He has given all of us a lot of potential but to develop this potential there is a prerequisite that is ‘struggle’. The man who achieves success takes a high challenge first and then he struggles for it. The more he challenges himself, the more he struggles and the more he achieves in life. This differentiates him from the rest.
Us: Let’s talk about our educational system. Our literacy rate has increased but still we have not been able to become a civilised nation. What immediate changes ought to be introduced in our educational system?
Imran Khan: Management. Pakistan is a management failure – governance failure state. Number one, I’ll change the governance system. Number two, I’ll finish off English medium, Urdu medium and Deeni Madrassah systems and introduce a uniform syllabus for every one. And, number three, I’ll give a three times increase to the spending on our education sector and would declare an “Education Emergency” in Pakistan.
Imran Khan: I don’t plan to develop a university or college but a ‘knowledge city’. I mean, the way Oxford is, you know. I always thought that there should be a huge university campus on an exquisite and peaceful place. The place we have purchased for this purpose sports a beautiful lake view and is surrounded by hills all around. It will be a complete – and a huge – campus. Currently, we have purchased one thousand acre land for this purpose and we plan to buy another one thousand acre soon.
Us: Recently, in a TV programme, mothers of cancer afflicted children expressed their gratitude to Shaukat Khanum and Imran Khan. How does it feel when people express so much regard for you?
Imran Khan: This is the most fulfilling achievement in a man’s life. You see, people lose hope thinking that cancer is something incurable and when it happens to a young child, only his/her mother can feel the pain. And when you become a ray of hope for such people, it is undoubtedly the most satisfactory moment in your life. It is quite difficult to treat all the cancer patients in one hospital, so we are commencing second branch of SK in Peshawar soon, InshaAllah.
Imran Khan: A stroke of luck or perhaps the will of Almighty Allah, both are same things. Two of my first cousins were renowned cricketers, so they proved to be role models for me. That was the stroke of luck. My ambition strengthened when I saw them playing cricket. Then it’s the effort. It is the law of nature that hard work always pays you back, so it did.
Us: Who do you think is talented like Wasim and Waqar in our domestic cricket?
Imran Khan: M. Amir is great, but his talent has been wasted due to the condition of the game.
Us: It is said that first love can never be forgotten. In your case how was your first love – cricket – defeated by politics?
Imran Khan: Actually, your past is not to live but to learn. School teaches you for university, university teaches you for your profession and once you are in professional life you set your further goals. Everything is a stepping stone. Iqbal says, “Sitaroon se agay jahan or bhi hain”. So you learn from your experiences and look ahead.
Us: Do you envisage a future Imran Khan in Salman or Qasim, your children, and how do you manage time for them?
Imran Khan: Children are a blend of both their parents. Presently, my sons are with their mother. They hardly spend time with me, so I am not sure if any one of them would turn out to be like me. Besides, every being has his own dreams. I just wish their dreams come true. I won’t force them to join cricket or politics. And yes, managing time for them has been very difficult nowadays. They spend their holidays with me. My nephews and nieces also join them during holidays, so it becomes a family get together occasion.
Us: The most pleasant memory of your cricket career?
Imran Khan: When we returned to Pakistan after beating India at their home ground … I can’t forget those moments at Lahore Airport. And then of course the World Cup victory! Though, I had played and performed very well in many other matches, like beating the West Indies, a great team of that era, but the joy and pleasure these two victories provided to the nation were unmatchable.
Us: You have been proposed by a number of actresses … would you like to comment on that?
Imran Khan: It has been more than eighteen years now since I retired from international cricket. I don’t remember such things exactly but once the Indian actor Dev Anand met me in England and offered a role in a film, which I refused instantly as I didn’t know acting nor did I want to know.
Us: You retired from international cricket in 1987. What brought you back into cricket?
Imran Khan: When my mother suffered from cancer it was unbearable for me, as I could not get her treated. Then I planned on making a hospital for cancer patients. This actually pulled me back into cricket.
Us: In an interview you said that when you became the cricket captain, you were so shy that you couldn’t speak to the team directly and conveyed what you wanted through the manager. What transformed you into a self-assured public figure?
Imran Khan: I had figured out my short comings and made up my mind that I would overcome them at any cost. I worked really hard and now I am able to speak at any forum.
Us: It is said that you are an idealist, detached from reality, and as such cannot be a good politician. On top of that, you cannot “act” in front of people!
Imran Khan: Quaid-e-Azam was not an actor. He followed a mission in his politics so he remained successful. And as far as being an idealist is concerned; in my opinion, you have to be an idealist. Quaid-e-Azam was an idealist as well and so was Allama Iqbal, my biggest inspiration. Iqbal dreamt a dream and Quaid-e-Azam realised it.
Us: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is becoming very popular among young people, but it has been observed that PTI does not have prominent representatives. On every TV show we see Imran Khan as the sole representative of PTI. Are you not worried about this situation?
Imran Khan: Yes, we are concerned about it. My appearance on TV shows has reduced significantly. Now in 75 percent TV shows, PTI is represented by other members. And you’ll see that PTI members would be distinctive in their ideology and honesty.
Us: What are your views about religious evolution?
Imran Khan: As time passes by, religious thought has to evolve but it is not evolving – it’s reacting to Western culture and often has nothing to do with faith or religion. Islam is a complete code of life for every human being. With the advancing world we should move on, too, keeping in view the boundaries of Islam. We should not be against the West but their unacceptable policies.
Us: Anything from your past that you would want to change?
Imran Khan: No, I do not want to change anything. I have no regrets.
Imran Khan: I hardly have any spare time but if I get some, I like reading books.
Us: Your message to the new generation?
Imran Khan: This is your country! No one will come from outside to mend it, to run it. Whatever you have been deprived of in all these years, it’s time to get it back. So come up, join in a revolution: PTI.