Imran Khan: Unplugged

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Love him or hate him, you can no longer ignore him. Following the Lahore rally, Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf have emerged as a force on the field of Pakistani politics.
But to many he is still a mystery: is he a superstar, a philanthropist, a politician, or all three? Who is he really, and what does he stand for?

Imran Khan

Q: Some call you Taliban Khan, and some call you Inqilab Khan. So the first question I want to ask is: will the real Imran Khan please stand up?
Imran Khan (IK): (laughs) … You missed out one thing… I’m also part of the Jewish lobby.

Q: And of course you’re a slave of the US and Europe, according to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

IK: And according to PML-N, there is also a Jewish conspiracy going on.

Q: So we need the real Imran to tell us who he is. First, let’s talk about Shah Mahmood Qureshi. After his resignation, he can either go for the Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) or the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), and now you’re going to tell us which one it is.

IK: I’m hoping he joins PTI because he fits the profile of what I expect a PTI office bearer to be. He’s honest, a clean politician who is educated and is a bit of an anomaly in this system. He has a vote bank and has a lot of political experience which our party lacks because we’ve got new people. Here is someone who started from the union council level and has been contesting elections for years and so he brings in a lot of experience.

Q: On the point of new people joining the party, one of the statements you made recently is that PTI will not award tickets to corrupt people and opportunists…but can those corrupt people and opportunists still join your party?

IK: If someone is a known crook then they can’t join the party, but there are a lot of shades of grey. This is a society where it is difficult to be honest, and even if you try to be honest, society forces you to be dishonest. For example, I was trying to transfer land from my ex-wife’s name to mine and it took me one year just to have a simple transfer done. I kept asking my lawyer why it’s taking so long and, without telling me, he eventually bribed the patwari because otherwise it would have gone on forever! So to say that we will find angels here is not possible. But we will try and sift through relatively better politicians. For instance, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Mian Azhar are clear-cut choices.

Q: Why is Mian Azhar a clear-cut option? A lot of people are criticising that decision because Mian Azhar was the head of the PML-Q under Pervez Musharraf and he lost the elections in 2002 so why him?

IK: Because he is honest and nobody has accused him of corruption. If we exclude everyone who has changed parties or is of a slightly different ideology then it will be impossible to get anyone. So we have decided that it is financial corruption we’ll concentrate on, which is the biggest reason why we are in the state we are today. If we can fight corruption in Pakistan then the country becomes viable.

Q: But don’t you see a contradiction there when you have somebody like Mian Azhar who represents the old status quo politics and you say you are representing ‘new’ politics?

IK: It’s not a contradiction and I’ll tell you why. It’s because revolutions are not brought about by political workers. It’s the leadership that comes up with a certain ideology. I remember Fidel Castro saying that he started the Cuban Revolution with 16 people who formed his ideological core. The most invaluable part of the PTI are the core workers and office bearers who have survived 15 years in the wilderness. I mean, we have passed through the most difficult test where everyone wrote us off. So those people who stuck it out were the ideological workers and office bearers. Everyone can join and there are a lot of people joining but the ideology of PTI will be protected by this old guard.

Q: Is the real Imran Khan a risk taker?

IK: Imran Khan was always a risk taker. Everyone said “Minar-e-Pakistan! Oh you’re doomed now” and of course Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif had their own rally in quite a small venue, despite full administrative support, so everyone said you’re taking a huge risk with Minar-e-Pakistan. But anyone who has achieved anything in life has always been a risk taker.

Q: So what happened that day on October 30th when you arrived at the venue and saw all those people? What was your instant reaction?

IK: You know I had four interviews before the 30th and in each interview I said that there will be over a hundred thousand people at the rally. When I said that we will sweep the elections, people laughed! And I actually made a bet with Talat Hussain on Kashif Abbasi’s programme saying that we will sweep the elections. He was very cynical about it and then on another programme I gave him in writing that the PTI will sweep the elections. The reason was…and I’ve never said this before…the reason was in the past year I’ve seen the people change. That’s because I’m probably the only politician who was going around holding public rallies because others were too scared. I could see that the youth had suddenly woken up and decided that there was only one party that stood for the change they wanted. So each rally was larger than the last. So when it came to the Lahore rally, I felt it would be a big success and I was very relaxed. My party workers were worried but I was relaxed about it.

Q: When I first interviewed you in Lahore in 1997, the PTI was quite new. It was your first time in politics and I remember quite clearly at that time you had said corruption is the most serious problem affecting this country and that all corrupt people should be hanged. There was a certain naivety that you had at that time. The Imran Khan sitting in front of me here today…how has he changed?

IK: This is a country where thousands of children die from waterborne diseases, where over 1,600 people have committed suicide because they can’t feed their families and here are these criminals siphoning off billions of dollars. My instinct is against capital punishment, but these people are taking lives and I do believe that to stop the plunder of this country, for a while there should be capital punishment above a certain level of corruption. I was in China recently and they had a huge problem with corruption but then 150 state ministers were imprisoned and some were even executed and the problem has been largely controlled.

As for the other question, yes I was completely naive! I’d approach politicians with all sincerity and say ‘you should join me because we want to change this country’ and now when I look back I realise they must have thought what an idiot I was! Because I was being sincere and thought they’d all join me just because of that. But now of course, they’re all joining but they don’t join simply because you are sincere.

Q: Then why do they join?

IK: They join because they have invested a lot in their constituencies. Some of them will join because they are total opportunists and think you are going to win. Others (I think) want to join you but feel you’re not viable. They feel they’ve done a lot of work and built a vote bank and don’t want to join someone who is sincere but unviable.

Q: You say corruption causes billions of dollars in losses and that you want to bring back the money and assets that are in the Swiss banks. How are you going to do this? What is your game plan?

IK: Firstly it is important to know that only a government that is clean can bring that money back. I don’t know if you saw Rehman Malik’s comment after Shahbaz Sharif’s rally on the 28th where Shahbaz said “We’ll bring back the Swiss money,” so Rehman Malik the next day said, “the Sharifs better be careful because we know where all their foreign assets are and we know all the corruption cases against them so they better not cross this line.” In other words they are saying, “let’s keep sparring but let’s not cross a certain point” because they know that once an accountability process starts, both of them will be affected. So you need a clean government to do this. Secondly, the world has changed. Once you start corruption proceedings against anyone with foreign assets, as with (former Tunisian president) Zine Abedin Ben Ali, (former Egyptian president) Hosni Mubarak and Qaddafi, all their foreign assets are immediately frozen. We are no longer in the old days where you could hide your money in Swiss banks. Now there is a money trail, so if a government has the will and there are people who cannot explain their assets, it can get this done. That’s why our main campaign is to have politicians declare their assets.

Q: But all these politicians declare their assets before the Election Commission. You don’t consider that viable?

IK: It is so obvious that they have concealed their real assets. That is why someone as rich as Nawaz Sharif will only pay Rs5,000 in tax. Then there’s me, a politician who was a professional cricketer for 18 years and I earned most of my money abroad. And all my money is in Pakistan and declared in my name. So how is it that these people, who only earned or plundered money from Pakistan, have assets abroad? They even sent the money abroad through hawala and other channels and laundered it. That’s why we insist that politicians must declare their assets.

Q: Do you seriously think they will?

IK: We have now set up a cell to bring out the real assets. So we will see what they have concealed even if they want to hide it.

Q: Leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N says if you have proof you should go to the courts.

IK: We might do that, but the problem is that it is the duty of the state to stop corrupt people. Instead here is a state which protects criminals. Here the judgments of the Supreme Court are ignored by all. When the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was annulled, why did the PML-N not do anything in the assemblies? Why did they sit around? If they are a genuine opposition, they should have stood up. But the problem is that the PML-N leadership has a number of corruption cases against it so it’s a “you scratch my back I scratch yours” situation. It became the friendliest opposition which is why now you’re seeing them panicking and going for a “Go Zardari Go” campaign because they have suddenly realised that the PTI has now taken over as the main opposition and they are trying to reoccupy that space which they have lost.

Q: Why is the PTI opening up multiple fronts simultaneously? With the PML-N, the PPP and the MQM. The only people you haven’t attacked yet are the ANP and I suspect that is not too far in the list at this point.

IK: We are not attacking parties, but the status quo as represented by the PML-N and the PPP. In sports we learn that you have to know your enemy and then go for them. Who is destroying this country? It’s the two main parties and their interests are the same. They have been in this coalition for almost all the time since 2008 and now they are trying to pretend they are actually in opposition with each other because they are threatened by us. Threatened by the tsunami that is coming. When they attack each other, it’s like watching a fixed match!

Q: You have always strongly opposed drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. You have declared the war on terror an American war and vowed to hang all those responsible for the deaths of the over 35,000 people killed in terror attacks as well as drone strikes. This will probably confuse a lot of people. Who exactly do you hold responsible?

IK: First, let me make it clear that I never used the word hang. I said we would bring them to justice. The reason is this country has had 35,000 to 40,000 people dead and more are dying every day. Zardari says the country has lost $70 billion, which means the people have lost this money. The government has got $20 billion, but we don’t know where it went because the people are getting poorer and there are three and a half million people who have been displaced and the entire tribal belt has been devastated. People have been devastated; you cannot imagine the way they are living because no one is allowed to go in there and see. Life is hell for them. So, why did we get into this? We were not involved in 9/11, no Pakistani was involved. Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan, there were no militant Taliban in Pakistan and in any case the Taliban were not terrorists, but fundamentalists. We went in for dollars. Our ruling elite have always sold us for dollars. Some 20 years ago we were in this for dollars again, acting as a frontline state. We were creating jihadis for dollars then and now we are taking dollars to kill the same people. After 9/11 we should have helped the US, just as we should help any country suffering from terrorism, but not like this. We have created terrorists at home.

Q: What kind of help would you have offered?

IK: If there was any information about the plot, about the plotters, then we should have provided it to them.  But help doesn’t mean that we should have handed over our civilians for bounty and have them end up in Guantanamo. We did a U-turn, we turned people who were our allies into our enemies. The Afghan Taliban government, as far as I am concerned, was a pro-Pakistan government.

Q: The Taliban government in Afghanistan was a pro-Pakistan government?

IK: They were not giving us any problems and Pakistan had recognised them. Now if the US had an issue with them, we should have stayed neutral. Why did we have to get into this mess? The reason we are in these top ten failed states lists is because the ruling elite has sold us for dollars.

Q: Let’s get specific. You say that there are one million armed people in the tribal areas who, if the drone attacks stopped, would happily remove terrorists living in their areas. Isn’t that a little unrealistic? We know that these people have been taking money [from militants], we know that they have been supporting militancy in many ways. The general perception is that withdrawing the Pakistani army from the tribal areas would allow militants to regroup.

IK: The general perception is there because of total ignorance, people have absolutely no idea about the tribal areas. The politicians don’t know about it, and no one knows the history of the tribal areas. When the great Quaid-e-Azam withdrew the Pakistani army from the tribal areas in 1948, the politicians said, “Don’t withdraw the Pakistani army, we will have problems.” What happened? We never had one problem in the tribal areas ever since we withdrew the army although we deprived [the tribals], we never helped them, never spent any money on them. We kept them backwards but still there was never any problem for Pakistan. If anything, they helped us and were always ready to help Pakistan. The number one question is: why was the whole tribal belt not on fire before? Do you know that we started military operations in early 2004 and it took three years of collateral damage to produce what are called the Pakistan Taliban. This was a reaction to the military operations.

Q: So what is your counter-narrative?

IK:  There is only one way to understand, we have to get people on board who know the area. There are generals and diplomats, like Rustam Shah Mohmand, people who know the tribal area. Ask them what the answer is. The politicians have completely sublet the whole war to the army, and which civilian government allows the army to run a war? If I was prime minister, would I allow the army to make all the decisions? No. I am a politician and politicians look for political solutions, not military solutions. Especially if those solutions have failed for seven years. What have we achieved in seven years? What has the US achieved in 10 years in Afghanistan? Nothing. If anything, radicalisation in Pakistan has grown. So we have actually made the situation much worse. So if you speak to anyone who has any understanding of the tribal areas, there is only one solution: win the people of the tribal areas to your side, start truth and reconciliation, say that we are no longer a part of this American war on terror. They consider the Pakistan army to be fighting on behalf of the Americans as a mercenary army.

Q: I want to throw one word into the equation: Swat.

IK: Please understand that Swat has nothing to do with the tribal areas. Swat was a mess we created and it could have been solved in a month. Swat is a totally different thing and unfortunately people did not understand the difference between Swat and the tribal areas and they confused the solutions of the two. The solution to the tribal areas is to get out of the US war, pull out the Pakistani army and tell the people of the tribal area, after truth and reconciliation, that it is your job to finish terrorism.

Q: Let me present an argument here.

IK: Let me give the solution here. If you empower the people of the tribal areas, get the Pakistan army out and no longer be considered a hired gun of the US, I promise you we will win this war. Otherwise, this is a never-ending war. For eighty years, the British never had peace in the tribal areas. They were a superpower. We are a country which is bankrupt. For 62 years, the Mughal Empire, which was a global superpower, fought against the tribals and eventually there was a political settlement. There is only a political settlement, and the PPP, the most incompetent and corrupt government in our history, is not going to be able to do anything. We are committing suicide. In the All Party Conference on Sept 29th, there were 50 parties and they all finally came down to what our stance has consistently been, that there is no military solution. All of them accepted that there was only one solution and that was to give peace a chance.

Q: What would you say to American policymakers who are convinced that the Haqqani network operates out of safe havens in the tribal areas? In the regional endgame when it comes to Afghanistan, what is your solution?

IK: I would tell the American policymakers: for God’s sake don’t listen to your generals. You need a political settlement, you don’t need more troops, you don’t need a surge. The surge has failed in Afghanistan. And I would ask the American politicians , is it plausible that five or six thousand Haqqani men, these fighters, these Rambos, are the reason one hundred and forty thousand soldiers of the greatest military machine in history are facing defeat? The Americans are fighting an entire population and they’ll never win the war because they don’t understand Afghan history. Read the Russian accounts; they killed a million Afghans out of a population of 60 million. They said that eventually they were fighting women, and children. The whole population was fighting.

Q: So here we come back to the same question, is Imran Khan a conservative, a fundamentalist or a liberal?

IK: You know, people pigeonhole people a lot. The only reason I wrote my book was because I was sick of the question: Are you a liberal? A fundamentalist? A radical?  What are you? I wrote this book for the young people of Pakistan because there is so much confusion here. What is Islam? What is religion? What is secularism? So to try and answer all these questions, I thought I better put all of this down in a book and try to make people understand what religion is and what spirituality is. In fact, my conclusion is that the threat to the world is not from religion because all the great religions of the world talk about humanity, justice, and the noble values of human beings. It is naked materialism we should be scared of because it’s going to destroy the globe. It’s this lust for more and more and this unfettered greed. It is this extreme form of capitalism that’s the danger.

Q: But the underpinning of modern civilisation is capitalism.

IK: But if we keep consuming at the rate we are, we are doomed. Imagine if China starts consuming, per capita, at the same rate as the US. It’ll all be over! The real issue is consumption and greed — attacking countries because you want to capture their resources, as has been done throughout history, that’s the real issue. Religion is not the issue. A true religion should make us all humane.

Q: Among many circles, the biggest fear is that Imran Khan will come to power and his coalition partner is going to be the Jamaat-e-Islami.

IK: I don’t know about the Jamaat-e-Islami, you should ask them about their agenda. But my agenda is clear, it is the agenda of Jinnah, and that of my ideological role model Iqbal. As for religion, it is a way of life, a way of being. It is religion which brings out the best in a human being. The only reason I am a politician is because my religion tells me that I have a responsibility to my society. Otherwise, I have everything I want in my life.  I don’t need anything. But it’s religion which tells you that the more God gives you, the more responsibility you have towards less privileged human beings.  And this is really why it is important to promote religious values and spiritual values as opposed to the materialistic culture which is unfortunately imbibed by our upper classes. This culture of “me” and “I” can only be countered by spirituality.

Q: One of the statements you recently made was that the ISI should be under civilian control. Are you advocating that the country’s military intelligence agencies should be brought under a civilian ministry?

IK: What I am saying is that the military should stay within its constitutional role. In a democratic government, it’s the civilian government that takes responsibility and has authority. No management structure can work if you divide it up so that someone else has the authority and someone else the responsibility. It doesn’t work. In the case of Prime Minister Gilani, he has the responsibility but President Zardari has the authority. It doesn’t work.

Q: Now another crucial question. In your rally you said you want to eradicate thana culture, the police structure in this country, and the patwaris. But here is the critical point: politics in Pakistan is very strongly based on biradaris and dharras, clans and community structures that are centuries old. How can you be okay with biradaris and say that that is part of the political process and at the same time be uprooting institutions that are also a part of the same structure?

IK: Well. First of all, if you want to bring about a change in Pakistan, the fundamental change you have to make is to empower your people. You empower your people by having a strong local government system. Western societies give freedom to their people not through a centralised system but through a devolved structure of empowering the people at the grass roots level. Now, before the British came here, under the Mughals and even before that, the village was actually empowered. The village was a self -contained unit. In fact, if you go to the tribal areas today, you will find that the village has its own jury system, it has its own parliament. It’s actually autonomous.

Q: A lot of us believe that it is a parallel judicial structure and you can’t have jirgas meting out their own brand of justice.

IK: In the tribal areas, this is not a parallel structure, it is the only structure. There is only one structure, where every village has its own jury system and it has worked very well for them, which is why they don’t want to become part of Pakistan. In Swat, one of the reasons why they started the Nifaz-e-Shariat movement is because the imposed system did not work. When Swat became part of Pakistan in 1974, Pakistani laws came in and their whole devolved structure of free justice at the village level disappeared. Suddenly they had to hire lawyers and pay fees and still had no guarantee of justice. So the poorer classes all joined this movement to bring their system back. You have to empower people at the grassroots level, in other words at the village level.

Q: But that is the level where these biradaris, powerful clans and feudals continue to dominate the lives of the people.

IK: These braderies existed before the British came but at the village level, people were empowered. Remember that it’s impossible to have a false witness at the village level. In fact, Mirza Ghalib wrote in 1860 that the first time the British introduced sessions courts was the first time [the people] started hearing of false witnesses. Sixty per cent of the issues that clog the rural courts are land issues and they should be resolved at the village level. The schools should be under the village committee, and the same goes for the local health services.

Q: Do you support biradari politics?

IK: How are you going to destroy it?

Q: How are you going to destroy thana culture?

IK: They are not linked. Thana culture is feudal and perpetuates the feudal system. The first thing a politician does when he comes into office is he gets his own thanedar and patwari in place. This is because he wants to control the thana, he wants to control the patwari and therefore he enslaves the people. What I am talking about is empowering the people through local government. One of the greatest Pakistanis was Akhtar Hameed Khan and in the Orangi Pilot Project, he proved to people that the moment you empower the people, the people can lift their own standard of living. They can look after themselves.

Q: And the problem that many people feel that the PTI is going to be mired in the politics of clans and of all of these old structures that exist. Do you think that the PTI can break free of these feudal structures as well as these biradaris?

IK: Look Quatrina, I won the election in one of the most difficult rural areas. I understand about biradari systems. The moment you destroy the oppression in the thana, you will liberate the people. How does a feudal operate? The way the feudal operates is by controlling the thana. If you liberate the people from the thana, you give them justice at the village level, which is the most important thing. That is how you will liberate the people. I went to China and understood how the Chinese got four hundred million people out of poverty in twenty years. There were some interesting ideas that came out, and one of them was how to help the small farmer. If you want to help the small farmer, you must liberate him from the thana and the patwari system.

Q: How?

IK: We have to have e-government. We have a plan through which we can implement a whole system in 90 days and bring in e-government which can not only eliminate corruption but also help people.

Q: That’s for when and if you get into government, what’s your political plan right now?

IK: We are going to have a rally in Karachi on the 25th of December. The whole objective of the rally is reconciliation. We want to bring everyone together, especially the Urdu-speaking community and the Pashtuns. We are probably the only party that can get these two ethnic groups together and not engage in the divisive politics which certain people and parties exploit. They make people fight each other and get votes and power through discord and bloodshed. Our idea is to bring about a grand reconciliation.

Q: Nawaz Sharif has now officially gone on the warpath against the government. Will you ally yourself with Nawaz Sharif for your mutual goal of removing the current administration?

IK: I think after 30 years of seeing power, it is time for Nawaz Sharif to think of retirement. Thirty years is a long time.

This interview has been adapted from the televised interview of Imran Khan by Quatrina Hosain on Witness with Quatrina, which aired on 14th November 2011

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 24th, 2011.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed or derived from.
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The Express Tribune

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Imran Khan: Man of the Hour

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Imran Khan: New Trouble Man for US in Pakistan The PTI leader criticized not only President Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif but also blasted US policies in the biggest-ever show of political power in Lahore in the past 25 years

By Hamid Mir

2011-10-30T180751Z_1187942809_GM1E7AV062Z01_RTRMADP_3_PAKISTAN

Imran Khan gestures after arriving to lead the Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf (PTI) rally in Lahore October 30, 2011.    

REUTERS/Raza

ISLAMABAD — Imran Khan is no more a cricketer turned politician. He has suddenly become an important regional player in the US endgame in Afghanistan.

A mind-blowing public rally of Imran Khan in Lahore on October 30 made it very difficult for the Zardari regime to give new commitments or accept any demands from the US to push its decade-long war against terror. Imran Khan has not only become a threat for traditional political parties inside Pakistan but is also going to become a big hurdle in the implementation of demands made by US during the recent visit of Hillary Clinton to Islamabad.

The PTI leader criticised not only President Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif but also blasted US policies in the biggest-ever show of political power in Lahore in the past 25 years. The last time Lahore saw this kind of political tsunami was on April 10, 1986 when late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returned after many years in exile. A big reception to the daughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a bombshell for the then military dictator. Benazir Bhutto addressed a big rally in Iqbal Park, adjacent to the historical Lahore Fort. That rally was the beginning of General Zia’s end.

The October 30 rally by Imran Khan in the same Iqbal Park also looked like an end of pro-US policies started by General Pervez Musharraf ten years ago. Imran addressed US Secretary of State as “Chachi Clinton”

(Aunty Clinton) and said a big no to any more army operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It will now be impossible for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party and its coalition partners to start new operations in North Waziristan or even continue the old operations from South Waziristan to Khyber Agency. Elections are close and no political government can take the risk of going against public opinion.

Hillary Clinton is these days desperately looking for someone who can become a bridge between Afghan Taliban and the US. Imran Khan can make some serious efforts in this regard but is more focused on the situation inside Pakistan. He has offered his services for the engagement of Pakistani Taliban but wants assurances that there will be no more military operations.

Imran said all this just one day before the meeting of President Asif Ali Zardari with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Istanbul. The US has arranged this meeting through Turkish President Abdullah Gull for the success of the Istanbul conference. Army Chief General Kayani also left for Turkey on Monday. Afghan officials will discuss the US endgame with Pakistan, India, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, UAE, Turkey, US and UK in Istanbul Conference from November 1.

The US wants some commitments from Pakistan at this conference and that is why the Pakistani Army Chief is also invited to this conference.

However, Imran Khan’s massive anti-American rally has made it very difficult for Pakistani leaders to oblige their friends from Saudi Arabia and Turkey who have became part of the process on the US request.

Imran criticized the Army operations in the tribal areas in very strong words. He clearly said some tribal elders had given him assurances that if US drone attacks were stopped and the Pakistan Army halted operations in the tribal areas they would control all militants. Imran Khan also arranged meetings of these tribal elders (mostly from North Waziristan) with his ex-wife Jemima Khan who is making a documentary against drone attacks.

Jemima and Imran are separated but often meet because of their two sons. An American lawyer Clive Smith is also helping Jemima and they are planning a big campaign against drone attacks in the Western media.

Jemima writes for Vanity Fair magazine. She is helping not only Imran but also Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, and Assange may also speak at the inauguration of documentary against drone attacks. The documentary is expected to have a lot of “WikiLeaks”. Imran Khan has repeatedly said, “Pakistan has changed”. He threatened, “I will not spare anyone who gave Pakistani bases to US and sold my people for dollars.”

Without naming Pervez Musharraf he sent him a message not to come back to Pakistan. He also said: “We want friendly relations with every country but we cannot accept slavery of America”. Imran Khan came out openly in support of the Kashmiris and advised India to withdraw its troops from Kashmir.

He tried to satisfy the central Punjab voters who are not happy with the soft stance of Zardari and Nawaz Sharif on India. This hawkish stance will definitely bring him closer to the military establishment but he opposes military action in Balochistan. He also criticized the role of Pakistan Army in former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in his recently published book “Pakistan a Personal History.”

According to the sources in Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) more than a dozen ambassadors from different Western countries wanted to see Imran Khan this week but he left for China immediately after addressing the mammoth public rally in Lahore on Sunday night. He will be a guest of the Chinese government. His opponents often declared him “Taliban Khan” or the “modern face of Jamat-i-Islami” but hundreds of thousands of people enjoyed the songs of many popular singers in the Lahore rally.

For some critics it became a grand musical show but the fact is that the crowd enjoyed the music at a public place after a very long time.

Pakistan has many popular pop singers but they cannot sing at public places due to fear of suicide bombings that started in 2007. There was a suicide attack on the musical show of Sono Nagam sometime back in Karachi and after that many pop singers were threatened not to sing at public places. Many singers like Adnan Sami, Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar tried their luck in India in recent years but now they can come back.

Imran Khan is bringing back not only the political activities on the roads but also encouraging many pop singers like Shehzad Roy to sing publicly who made songs against drone attacks. Roy presented his famous song ‘uth bandh kamar kya darta hey phir dekh Khuda kya karta hey” in the Sunday rally. Thousands of youngsters were dancing on this song and Imran was clapping with them.

Imran Khan is becoming the voice of the common Pakistanis who are neither religious extremists nor secular fascists. He is becoming a ray of hope for those disgruntled youngsters who have started hating democracy due to bad governance and corruption. These youngsters can now bring about a change in Pakistan through their vote power. Youth is the real power of Imran Khan and this youth belongs to the lower middle, middle class. This is the most disillusioned class in Pakistan but now the youth of this class is becoming active, which is a positive sign.

Dozens of sitting parliamentarians are contacting Imran Khan for joining his PTI. Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and many political big shots will make some shocking decisions soon but Imran is more interested in young blood and well-educated minds.

He warned the government on Sunday that all politicians must declare their assets inside and outside Pakistan within a few months failing which his party would launch a civil disobedience movement and block all major cities with public support. For many analysts he is emerging as the third option after Zardaris’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N.

Some say he will ruin Nawaz Sharif in the central Punjab and PPP would be the ultimate beneficiary. Imran does not agree with this analysis.

He always criticizes PPP and PML-N jointly because one is ruling at the center and the other is ruling Punjab, which is more than 60 percent of Pakistan. Imran has definitely proved that he enjoys more political support in Lahore than Nawaz Sharif but it does not mean that he is going to get clear majority in the coming elections. He needs some winning horses not only in the central Punjab but also in south Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and Sindh.

He needs big rallies in Faisalabad, Multan, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta and then he can make some bigger claims. He will definitely make dents not only in the vote bank of PML-N but will also damage the PPP badly. There are 25 seats of national assembly in Lahore division of which PML-N has 20, PPP has 3 and PML-Q has one. Imran may snatch at least half of the PML-N and all the seats won by PPP and PML-Q in Lahore. Out of 23 seats in Gujranwala division PML-N has 13, PPP 8 and PML-Q has 2. Imran will damage PPP and PML-Q more than PML-N in Gujranwala. There are 20 seats in Faisalabad division – PML-N has only 4 while PML-Q has 8 and PPP has 7 seats.

Many sitting members of the national assembly from Faisalabad are pleading to Imran to accept them in his party. Some PPP, PML-Q and ANP members from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are also in contact with Imran, which means that his popularity is not confined to Punjab.

His biggest stronghold in the north is the tribal area where he is expected to make a clean sweep and more than 10 seats are in his pocket. This is the same area where he will not allow government to start any new Army operations.

If there is no operation then what will be the future of Pakistan-US relations? Zardari regime is at the crossroads. There is US pressure from one side and the PTI pressure from the other.

Nawaz Sharif was trying to play safe by targeting only Zardari and not the US but Imran Khan has suddenly changed the political dynamics in Pakistan. He is the new trouble man for US and also for the pro-US political elite in Pakistan. All the popular parties have no option other than to follow his anti-Americanism.

Hillary Clinton needs to realize the wave of change in Pakistani politics. She cannot understand this change without engaging Imran Khan. October 30 was just a beginning. World will see more changes on the political map of Pakistan and Imran Khan will play a leading role.

The News (Pakistan)

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Next Elections: Tsunami of Change

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

A visit to villages in Punjab and Khyber Paktoonkhwa (KPK) shows that the season of election has started. There are street banners and billboards from probable candidates of various parties, political rallies, corner meetings and local deal makings are in full swing. But there is a deeper current flowing that suggests that the country is preparing for a revolutionary change in its political structure. There are various factors in play for this sea change.

Youth activism in politics can be credited to the celebrity appeal of Pakistan Tehrike Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan. It started as a fan appeal but as these youth got indoctrinated in the ideology of Pakistan Tehrike Insaaf (PTI) they have become a potent political force that is eager to demonstrate its ability to affect the future of Pakistan. The challenge for PTI will be to mentor and guide this youthful energy with the experience and mentorship of seasoned politicians. They may be political novices but on the other hand they are savvy in using social media, mobile sms and twitter technologies to connect and mobilize at a very short notice. The effectiveness of these abilities was in full exhibit during the political rallies organized by PTI before and during Ramadan. This phenomenon was initially discarded by old guard politicians but the success of rallies in Faisalabad, Multan and Gujranwala has forced them to rethink their approach.

The other factor is the emergence of regional media that is showing its ability to educate local masses and influence their decision making by highlighting the poor performance and broken election promises of incumbent parties. As the national media focus on larger issues the regional media has carved its role by dictating the political agenda filled with local issues that can not be ignored by candidates and must become part of their election manifesto. Most of these media outlets are using social media and internet to spread their message to registered voters that have migrated to other parts of the country. If used effectively they can become a key factor in monitoring election fraud. Regional media is showing their desire to have an independent voice despite lack of financial resources to challenge the establishment and local landlord.

The third factor is the ever widening gap between rich and poor. As an illustration, Faisalabad is the second largest city in Punjab and an industrial center of Pakistan. Just few miles off the GT road, in the vicinity of Faisalabad, are located the poorest villages of Pakistan. In these villages the streets are unpaved, the children are unclothed, the sewerage is flowing in uncovered channels becoming breeding grounds for viruses, streets are littered with garbage and the houses are made of dirt. In the midst of this abject poverty the rich landlords are driving in shinning new Prado’s or Land Cruisers comforted by the cool breeze of an air condition while the masses are struggling below the poverty line burdened by the worry of the next meal. Rich are totally oblivious of the misery happening around them. They spend large part of the year in Faisalabad which is stocked with the best merchandize produced locally and internationally. Even when they spend few months in the villages their villas are built at a distance from the village featuring latest amenities construction technology can offer.

While the villages of central Punjab are poor ironically the Mosques are modern and adorned with the best marble inside and out. One wonders how people could afford to build such beautiful edifices when their own lives are below subsistence level. This paradox is solved when a person is informed that the funds for the mosque and attached Madrassa’s are provided by international benefactors. This is a recipe for disaster as the orthodox Imam of the mosque is impregnating the mind of the people with hatred for the rich in the name of the religion. This phenomenon has made Punjab a breeding ground for extremism. The religious establishment has become so powerful that no one has the strength or the courage to challenge them. Anyone who dares to hint at bringing these institutions under the state control is threatened with dire consequences. Mosque has lost some of its political luster because of the acts of terrorism committed by the religious extremist. But it can not be totally ignored and will play a role in the elections.

In the next elections all these factors will come into play and will impact the outcome of the elections. The larger struggle will be between the rich and the poor. Youth, media and religious establishment will all join hands to defeat the influential status quo. PTI can provide the vehicle for this dynamic if the party played its card right. Realizing the PTI potential to break out as a majority party, it has suddenly become the darling of old political elite that had lost its luster or lost last elections. The debate within the party is how to handle this challenge and balance the interest of the loyalist against electable. If too many old faces get the party ticket then it will lose the prized status of party of change while ignoring it might not produce the desired number of parliamentary strength. It is the test of party’s ability to gauge the political current and use it to their advantage without losing their core constituencies of youth, undecided and new voters. PTI rallies and jalsas are drawing increasing crowds but the party analysts have to ascertain how many of these are party voters versus fans of cricket hero Imran Khan.

Against this backdrop PML N looks tired and out of ideas. PML N President, Nawaz Sharif seems awakened from a long slumber and behaving more like a reactionary than a visionary. PML N is fighting an existential threat as its core vote bank is attacked by PTI, MQM, and JI. PPP seems to be confident that the status quo in parliament will hold up with minor losses in its current numbers. PML Q looks like the party that will be most affected, many of their dissident leaders have joined ranks with PML N while some others might be unseated in the next elections. ANP, JUI F and MQM are expected to maintain their numbers except that ANP might lose its majority in KPK provincial parliament. They are eager and open to make alliance with the next emerging power center.

Revolutions are bloody while transformations are comparatively peaceful. Pakistan is at the cusp where it can tilt either way. One must hope that the nation will choose the path of transformation and emerge as a beacon of light for the larger Muslim world.

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Houston’s Positive Response For Pakistan Floods 2011

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Formed in Houston:  “Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts”

pakistanSeveral community based organizations in Houston, Texas, USA; came together this past weekend, to establish a collaborative to serve the humanity in dire needs suffering from Floods 2011 in Pakistan. This body is named the “Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts”; and its aims are to send monetary funds through members organizations working in the field in Sindh Pakistan, and to also send in-kind donations; all to benefit the humanity suffering from floods in Sindh Pakistan, where more than 7.50 million lives have been totally disturbed and projected to remain be disturbed in weeks and months to come.

Members of the Alliance as of Monday, September 19th, 2011 in alphabetical order are given below. More organizations are being approached and also being encouraged with this communiqué, to join this collaborative. For more information, one can call Saeed Sheikh, Coordinator of the Alliance at 1-281-948-1840 and/or ILyas Hasan Choudry, Secretary of the Alliance at 1-832-275-0786):

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2011 – Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter – Hashoo Foundation USA – Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development (HHRD) – Houston-Istanbul Sister City Association (HISCA) – Houston-Karachi Sister City Association (HKSCA) – Imran Khan Foundation (IKF) – Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) – Pakistani-American Council of Texas (PACT) – Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) – Raindrop Helping Hands – Raindrop Turkish House – Red Cross – Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) – Sun Charity – Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB);

Media Partners: Pakistan Chronicle – Pakistan Journal – Pakistan News – Pakistan Times – Radio Houston – Radio Light Of Islam – Radio Shalimar – Muslim Observer…

The inaugural exploratory meeting started with recitation of Quran by Abdur Rauf Khan. After initial introductions of all the attendees, one of the persons, who had envisioned the idea of this Alliance, Saeed Sheikh talked about the importance and blessings in joint efforts to serve the humanity in dire needs in Pakistan due to the recent catastrophic floods.

ILyas Hasan Choudry gave an overall assessment of the damage in Sindh Pakistan due to these floods and ongoing efforts. He informed that these floods were different than last year, where floods came down from mountains giving time for people to relocate. Here rains came down in four spells, causing sudden and very high floods, which have never been seen in 51 years. So people did not get warning to relocate. Catastrophe is larger than last years’ flood, but somehow due to political, economical, and other natural & man-made catastrophes having hit Pakistan, USA and the world, media was late in picking up this news, especially the media in Pakistan.  Otherwise this tragedy had struck many people long time ago, like almost one month ago. 250+ persons died, 2.30-Million bales of cotton lost, almost all of the crops are destroyed in an area of  7-Millon Acres, more than 60,000 cattle heads perishing (whole livelihood of majority of common people in the area of twenty or more districts gone), and 750,000+ homes partially or completely destroyed. Water has come in so much quantity that it is projected by experts that it may take 30 to 45 days just for the water to recede. As such there is emergency relief work needed in terms of clean water, food, shelter, healthcare services, and psycho-social support for children, ladies, and elderly. After the first phase of one to two months, much long term rehabilitation will be needed. Local organizations at grassroots levels are working within the communities, where people are stranded due to water, while international NGOs with local offices are trying to bring people into cluster camps and providing their efforts.

Based on thorough discussion, following are the projects and programs that were decided for this alliance: Doing In-Kind donation drive for three to four weeks (and beyond if needed). Since the best possible facilities, including dock for container, are available at PAGH’s Pakistan Center located at 12638 Bissonett, Houston, Texas 77099, so that will the place to collect In-Kind donations.

Alliance will also organize joint monetary fundraising events, which may include a large scale underwritten dinner at a nice location, and one or two radio telethons, where people will be encouraged to donate towards the organizations of their choice, just like it was done at the time of the earthquake in Pakistan 2005. For the joint fundraising efforts, more organizations will be included that will become part of the list of organizations to receive the monetary donations for these joint fundraising efforts. As of Monday, September 19th, 2011, these organizations were identified to receive monetary funds raised during Alliance’s Events (more can be included later on): Pakistan Prime Minister Fund; Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter; Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development; Imran Khan Foundation (IKF); Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH); Raindrop Helping Hands; Sindhi Association of North America (SANA); Sun Charity; and Red Cross (included so as to give choice to larger American community to participate – someone from Red Cross will be approached before putting their name on the final list).

It was decided to have an initial working committee for the Alliance, and following persons were chosen with consensus – More persons will be included as the Alliance expands By the Grace of God: Saeed Sheikh (Coordinator), Talat Talpur (Treasurer), Mian Nazir (In-Kind Donation Coordinator), and ILyas Hasan Choudry (Secretary and Community & Media Outreach). Two persons, who are members of the Alliance Organizations; namely Bobby Refaie and Cristal Montanez Baylor will soon be in Pakistan; and during their stay in Pakistan, they will act as Liaison for the Alliance in Pakistan.

For more information, one can call Saeed Sheikh (Cell: 1-281-948-1840) and ILyas Hasan Choudry (Cell: 1-832-275-0786).

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“US Is Destroying Pakistan”

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Imran Khan: ‘America is destroying Pakistan. We’re using our army to kill our own people with their money’

The Pakistani cricketing legend and politician talks about his country’s damaging relationship with the US, how aid and corruption are further ruining it — and how he is sure he will be its next president

By Stuart Jeffries

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File:  Imran Khan

When Barack Obama announced in May that American commandos had killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Imran Khan was furious. “The whole of Pakistan felt this way. Wherever I went I felt this humiliation and anger in people. It was humiliating because an American president announces it, not our president. And because it was the American military, not our military, which this country has given great sacrifices to nurture, that killed him.”

Khan stirs his cappuccino angrily. “Most humiliating of all was that the CIA chief Panetta says that the Pakistan government was either incompetent or complicit. Complicit!” But surely Leon Panetta had a point, didn’t he? The world’s most wanted man was living a mile from Pakistan’s military academy, not in some obscure cave. “They’re talking about a country in which 35,000 people have died during a war that had nothing to do with us. Ours is perhaps the only country in history that keeps getting bombed, through drone attacks, by our ally.”

Khan’s rage is directed not chiefly at Obama’s administration but at successive Pakistani governments for entrapping his homeland in a dismal cycle of immiseration and mass deaths for the past eight years by supporting the war on terror in return for billions of dollars of financial aid. The manner of Bin Laden’s killing and the national shame of its aftermath typify for Khan how Pakistan has never properly learned to stand on its own two feet. He calls it an era of neocolonialism in which Pakistan’s people seem destined to suffer as much as, if not more than, they did during British colonial rule.

“According to the government economic survey in Pakistan, $70bn has been lost to the economy because of this war. Total aid has been barely $20bn. Aid has gone to the ruling elite, while the people have lost $70bn. We have lost 35,000 lives and as many maimed — and then to be said to be complicit. The shame of it!”

Arguably Khan is benefiting from that anger. The legendary cricketer turned politician hopes — even expects — to become Pakistan’s next prime minister. “Every poll has shown the gap widening between us and other parties.” He is modest about his impact on the polls: “It’s not what I have done, it’s that they have got discredited. These are the best of times and the worst of times. The best of it is that people are hungry for a change.”

I sip the tea that his ex-wife, Jemima Khan née Goldsmith, has just handed me. We’re sitting on huge sofas in the vast living room-cum-kitchen of her opulent west London home. He’s here to see his two sons, Sulaiman Isa, 14, and Kasim 12, who live with their mother, when they return from school. Later this evening he will fly home to Islamabad.

Jemima retreats upstairs so that her ex and I can analyse what went wrong with his country — and the couple’s marriage. Understandably, Khan would rather talk about the former.

He recalls his greatest cricketing achievement as Pakistani team captain, winning the 1992 World Cup. Perhaps the 2012 Pakistani election will eclipse that triumph. “I played five World Cups and it was only in the last World Cup before we won [in 1992] that I said:

‘Put money on us.’ Now I’m saying my party will win. I’m throwing everyone a challenge that nothing can stop this party. Nothing.”

Perhaps. But Pakistani politics, to hear Khan talk, isn’t cricket. “To have a senior post in the government, you have to have a criminal record.” I laugh. Surely not? He names ministers who have. This was one consequence of ex-president Pervez Musharraf’s 2007 National Conciliation Ordinance that gave amnesties to many politicians (including former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who returned to Pakistan as a result and was shortly afterwards assassinated). “He did the greatest disservice to us by that ordinance. And guess what — it was brokered by the Bush administration.

“My country can barely stoop any lower. All you need to do with a senior politician today is look at his assets before he came into politics and look at them after and you know why they’re there. My party is made up of people who don’t need politics. You need people who don’t need politics to make money.” But surely that implies government by gentry, by people who are independently wealthy? “Or people who are not necessarily wealthy but who are in a profession and are doing quite well out of it outside politics. Career politicians have destroyed our country.”

I take a sidelong glance at Imran Khan. He’s a young, fit-looking 58, dressed in western playboy uniform (jeans, sports jacket, big-collared open-neck shirt), but with an imposingly stern face that he may have inherited from the Pashtun ancestors on his mother’s side of the family. He claims to be shy and introverted, but to me he conveys the enviably easy assuredness typical of English public schoolboys. Indeed, Khan is steeped in that ethos: he was educated at Aitchison College in Lahore, a so-called English-medium school, before being sent to England to study at the Royal Grammar School, Worcester, and then read philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford. Ironically, one of his party’s policies is that elite schools such as Aitchison should be abolished for being inegalitarian.

If this cricketing legend did become Pakistan’s prime minister, it would involve a remarkable turn around in fortunes. In his early test-cricketing days, he was called Imran Khan’t — and that nickname applied too to his political career. Ever since he established his political party Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) in 1996, Khan has fared abysmally. Even the Guardian’s Declan Walsh described him in 2005 as making a “miserable politician. Khan’s ideas and affiliations since entering politics in 1996 have swerved and skidded like a rickshaw in a rain shower.”

Khan may have been a brilliant cricketer who for 21 years until retirement in 1992 made Pakistan a leading force in the international game. He may have once been renowned as a soigné habitué of toff nightclubs such as Annabel’s and Tramp in the 1980s, and as the playboy who romanced debutantes Susannah Constantine, Lady Liza Campbell and the artist Emma Sergeant. But is he really the man to lead Pakistan from what he calls “the the edge of collapse”?

He, at least, thinks so. “The old parties are all petrified of me now.

They all want to make alliances with me and I say: ‘No, I’m going to fight all of you together because you’re all the same.’”

Excellent. But how does he propose to effect what he calls a soft revolution in Pakistan? “Oh hawk,” he replies unexpectedly, “death is better than that livelihood that stops you ascending.” He is quoting a verse from his favourite poet and philosopher, Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who died in 1938 and so missed both Pakistan’s birth, its rule by dicators and corrupt dynasties, and its current ignominy.

How do Iqbal’s words apply to modern Pakistan? “I take them to mean anything that comes with strings attached damages your self-esteem and self-respect — you’d better die than take it,” says Khan. “A country that relies on aid? Death is better than that. It stops you from achieving your potential, just as colonialism did. Aid is humiliating.

Every country I know that has had IMF or World Bank programmes has only impoverished the poor and enriched the rich.” And American aid, he argues, has had a calamitous effect on his homeland.
What Khan is planning politically echoes what he did in cricket.

“Colonialism deprives you of your self-esteem and to get it back you have to fight to redress the balance,” he says. “I know for myself and my contemporaries Viv Richards [the great West Indies batsman] and Sunil Gavaskar [the no-less-great Indian batsman] beating the English at cricket was a means of doing that. We wanted to assert our equality on the cricket field against our colonial masters.”

Isn’t cutting foreign aid a perilous policy for a bankrupt economy?

“But it doesn’t matter,” retorts Khan. “We will cut down expenditure, tax the rich and fight corruption. The reason we’re bankrupt is because of corruption. Asif Ali Zardari [Pakistan’s current president] puts his cronies on top and they literally siphon off money.”

He argues that if Pakistan’s two greatest problems, corruption and tax evasion, can be solved, then the country will become solvent. “We have the lowest tax-GDP ratio in the world: 9%. If we get it to 18%, which is India, we’re solvent.” Not only does Khan believe he can tax the rich but also that exploiting Pakistan’s huge mineral reserves will help the country escape its current mess. “A country that has no power is sitting on the biggest coal reserves in the world!”

Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s other key policy is withdrawing from the war on terror. Why? “The war on terror is the most insane and immoral war of all time. The Americans are doing what they did in Vietnam, bombing villages. But how can a civilised nation do this? How can you can eliminate suspects, their wives, their children, their families, their neighbours? How can you justify this?

“When I came here at 18 I learned about western rule of law and human rights, innocent until proven guilty. The Americans are violating all of this.”

Khan wrote an open letter to Obama arguing that the war was unwinnable.

“I said you do not have to own Bush’s war — you can’t win it anyway.

It’s creating radicals. The more you kill, the more you create extremism.”

Why can’t the war be won? “The Soviets killed more than a million people in Afghanistan. They were fighting more at the end than the beginning. So clearly a population of 15 million could take a million dead and still keep fighting. They [the Americans] are going to have to kill a lot of people to make any impact and they also have in Zardari an impotent puppet as Pakistani president who has not delivered anything to the Americans.

“The Americans also don’t realise that this whole Arab spring was against puppets or dictators. People want democracy. So this whole idea of planting your own man there, a dictator — neocolonialism is what it’s called — is not going to work any more.

“The aid to our puppet government from the US is destroying our country. We’re basically using our army to kill our own people with American money. We have to separate from the US.”

Khan knows what it is to be attacked from both sides. “I’ve been called Taliban Khan for supporting the tribal Pashtuns and I’ve been called part of a Jewish conspiracy to take over Pakistan. I am of course neither.”

The latter allegation came when Khan married Jemima Goldsmith in 1995.

In a chapter on his marriage in his excellent new book Pakistan: A Personal History, he recalls that, when he left for England aged 18, his mother’s last words were: “Don’t bring back an English wife.” But after his mother’s death, Khan did that, even though the British press wailed that Jemima would not be allowed to drive in Pakistan and that she would have to be veiled from head to toe; even though the Pakistani media portrayed the marriage as a Zionist plot to take over Pakistan.

No matter, as Khan writes, that his wife wasn’t actually Jewish (her paternal grandfather was Jewish), but had been baptised and confirmed as a Protestant. No matter that she converted to Islam and set about learning Urdu on her arrival in Pakistan.

The smears got worse a year after their marriage when Khan launched his political career. “Cross-cultural marriage is difficult, especially when one person has to live in another country. But I thought there was a very good chance of it working because people grow together if they have a common passion. But from the moment my opponents attacked her in the first election in terms of a Zionist conspiracy we had to then take her away from politics. That meant we were doing different things. We couldn’t share our passions.”

Jemima returned to England, ostensibly for a year to do a masters in modern trends in Islam, taking her sons with her. She never returned, the couple divorced in 2004 and she is now associate editor of the Independent and editor-at-large for Vanity Fair. They remain on friendly terms. “It was very painful that it didn’t work out but that bitterness and anger that comes when a marriage breaks down through infidelity was not there. We were completely faithful to each other.”

There was no way he could have moved to London? “London is like a second home, but never could I imagine living away from Pakistan.” It must be tough with his sons living half a world away most of the year.

“Very tough. Nothing gave me more happiness than fatherhood. And here’s someone who had great highs in his life. The biggest void in my life is not being close to my children all the time, but mercifully, thanks to my relationship with Jemima, I see them a great deal.”

One way of looking at his failed marriage, then, is that it could not survive the bearpit of Pakistani politics. How could he continue in that grim game given the high cost it extorted from you? “Ever since my mother died in great pain from cancer, I have had a social conscience that can only express itself in getting involved in politics. As long as I played cricket there was hardly any social conscience. It came because of my mother and how she was treated.” It also came after a spiritual awakening and renewed Islamic faith, in which Iqbal’s writings played an important role.

“The No1 thing that struck me about your country when I came here was your welfare state, which I’m sad to say they are dismantling — a big mistake. I thought: ‘What a civilised society.’ When my mother was treated here we were paying for her and there was a national health patient next to her — equal treatment. We didn’t have that in Pakistan.”

After his mother’s death he founded the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore in her name. “My hospital is the only one in Pakistan where doctors are not allowed to know which patients are paying and which are free. Equal treatment for rich and poor is essential.”

But the hospital was only possible because of donations that he raised  from the streets of Pakistan’s cities. “We needed $4m for the hospital and we had run out of steam so someone suggested we just go out into the streets. I ended up covering 29 cities in six weeks and I just went into the street with a big collecting sack. Only in Pakistan would this happen.”

But that Pakistani generosity, he realises, articulates an important principle of Islam, of doing good deeds to get to heaven. In the book he writes that he asked why poor people would give such high proportions of their income to a cancer hospital not even in their own town. “It was always the same reply, ‘I am not doing you a favour. I am doing it to invest in my Hereafter.’”

That geneoristy proved a catalyst for Khan’s political career, he writes: “I started thinking that these people were capable of great sacrifice. Could these people not be mobilised to fight to save our ever-deteriorating country?” He may have a sentimental vision of poor Pakistanis but Khan has no doubt: they will revolutionise Pakistan, led by him.

Just before I leave him to his children, he tells me that the nadir for Pakistan came last year when Angelina Jolie visited Pakistan’s flood-hit area. “It’s so shameful. The prime minister gave her a reception in his palace and she commented on its opulence. The prime minister gets his family in a private jet to see her, the family give her expensive presents and yet there are people dying in these flood-affected areas. They were living like Mughal emperors in splendour and our people were dying. It took a Hollywood star to point this out. Our politics can never be so shameful again.” That remains to be seen.

Guardian UK

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Pakistan Has Lost its Dignity and Self-Esteem

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imran Khan, Independent UK

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Everyone began asking: whatever happened to the Pakistani army and its intelligence?

The people of Pakistan woke up yesterday morning to be told the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed. But this news did not come from any of their leaders – not the Pakistani President, not the Pakistani Prime Minister, nor the Pakistani Army chief. Instead this news came  from US President Obama, when he appeared on television and informed the world how the US had been gathering intelligence about a town two hours north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Pakistanis were dumbfounded especially when no statement was forthcoming from their government in the wake of the Obama speech. The big questions that everyone began asking, and for which no answers have been forthcoming, were: who allowed the Americans to come to Pakistan and carry out this attack? And whatever happened to the Pakistani Army and its intelligence?

We were all still wondering when we heard, much later, contradictory information being disseminated from the Government of Pakistan and the Western media (with the Indian media outrightly accusing ISI of supporting terrorists). Many hours later the Pakistani Prime Minister claimed that all the intelligence had come from Pakistan, but the US administration and the Western media said Pakistan was totally out of the loop with no information sharing on this action.

All this has led to other serious questions being raised in Pakistan.

For instance, if the Pakistan government or the army had this intelligence, why did we not take out Bin Laden ourselves? Why did we have to rely on the Americans coming over from their airbases in Afghanistan? Equally disturbing is the tremendous level of distrust the US has for the Pakistanis, which led it to jam the radars during the duration of the operation.

There is not just confusion that prevails in Pakistan, but also a national depression at the loss of national dignity and self-esteem as well as sovereignty. There is no answer to these questions and this simply allows allegations from the West and from India to go unchallenged that Pakistan has been protecting Bin Laden and other terrorists; that Pakistan knew he was here and kept him safe.

The president, the prime minister and the army need to address this immediately and if, as they claim, they had the intelligence that led to the killing of Bin Laden, why it was not done by Pakistani forces?

Until this happens, Pakistan will suffer a great loss of credibility – and this from a country that has the fifth biggest army in the world and a hefty defense budget.

The reason we will not get these answers, of course, is that we have the most corrupt and incompetent government in our history.

And just how did it come to this? On 11 September 2001, Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan and there were no suicide attacks in Pakistan. Fast forward 10 years and there are 34,000 Pakistani dead, the economy has lost $68bn according to President Zardari himself, a massive figure if you consider that the country has received a total of only $28bn in aid from the US.

In the past decade, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and we have created insurgent groups like the Pakistani Taliban.

Meanwhile, in 2010 across Pakistan there were 500 bomb blasts and today the major financial hub Karachi is aflame with people dying on a daily basis as a result of terrorism. The largest province in area, Balochistan, is prey to a violent insurgency.

Back in 2001 and 2002, the US attacks in the Tora Bora region forced some of the al-Qa’ida leadership across the porous 2,500km border with Pakistan; a border which the local tribes always traversed at will.

This was not a situation of war. What Pakistan should have done at this time was to use the tribal people to capture the fleeing members of al-Qaeda.

Instead, we got ourselves into a situation where the Army, under pressure from the US, commenced military operations against its own tribal people, which is what led to the revolt of the tribals and by 2004 Pakistan was dragged into the conflict with huge levels of collateral damage, and ultimately leading to the creation of the Pakistani Taliban.

After yesterday’s attack Pakistan is in great danger. There will be a backlash and there will be added pressure for the Army and the ISI to do more. Will we now be going into North Waziristan in pursuit of other insurgents?

The truth, of course, is that Pakistan cannot afford any of this. It cannot afford the inevitable extremist backlash; it cannot afford the targeting of its troops; and it certainly cannot afford the economic consequences.

We, the people of Pakistan, no longer have a government that represents us. It is time for Pakistan to get out of this war – and to recognise that if we continue along this path we are doomed.

Pakistan can no longer afford the human and financial costs and must, along with the rest of the world, realise that ultimately the solutions to these problems are political – and the weaker the state becomes, the less likely it will be to tackle the menace of extremism.

The US has won its battle against Bin Laden, but the war remains open ended.

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Imran Khan–His Mission

March 25, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Liz Hoggard

imran khan I don’t have to do this, Imran Khan tells me earnestly. “I could have a very easy existence. I could go on TV and make so much money, live like a king.” Instead the retired international cricketer, and former husband of Jemima Khan, has dedicated his life to politics back home in Pakistan. Jemima, the daughter of the late financier, Sir James Goldsmith, may just have bought a £15 million stately pile in Oxfordshire, but Imran lives hand-to-mouth on a farm outside Islamabad. He grows his own vegetables and tends cows on his land in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Since he founded his party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (the Movement for Justice), in 1996 on an anti-corruption platform, he has campaigned against the elite hogging all the resources. He personally sold all his cricketing memorabilia to fund a cancer hospital in memory of his mother, who died of the disease, and he has opened a vocational college in a poverty-stricken area of Pakistan.

Imran, 57, took nothing from Jemima’s fortune when they divorced, so when he runs out of money he does a brief stint as a TV pundit. But he is completely unmaterialistic. “You achieve inner peace when you give away what you have,” he says.

This week he is in London to talk about the crisis in Pakistan, but he has never liked city life. His parents used to take him up in the hills each summer as a boy, and now he takes his sons Sulaiman, 13, and Kasim, 10, hiking and shooting partridge when they visit his farm. He has built them a mini-cricket ground. “They are quite good,” he laughs.

Gone is the handsome playboy who spent his nights in Annabel’s and squired gorgeous women, including Susannah Constantine and painter Emma Sergeant, around town. He still has those patrician looks but these days Imran would rather stay up all night talking politics than nightclubbing.

Last week I watched him give a talk to students in London. Mostly bright, politicised young Pakistani-Muslims, they treated him like a rock star. His sense of urgency was palpable, as is his fear that Pakistan might implode at any minute.

Already, it is routinely described as a “failed state”. From day one he opposed the War on Terror and “the American puppet politicians in Pakistan”. The decision to send the army into the tribal areas of the North West Frontier, to flush out al Qaeda terrorists, simply fuelled extremism. “It’s civil war in the making,” he says shaking his head. “They were like a bull in a china shop, fighting one or two guerrillas with aerial bombing of villages. That turned people against the army and a new phenomenon was created: the Pakistan Taliban.” It’s made him believe even more passionately in socio-economic justice. “You will have no problem with extremists in Pakistan if you have democracy with a welfare state,” he tells the audience.

By the end of the evening he looked shattered. Half his life is spent in transit and his close friend tells me he is wearing jeans instead of the usual suit because he forgot to pack a belt.

When I meet him two days later at Ormeley Lodge, near Richmond Park, he is still fielding calls about a wave of bombings in Pakistan, and trying to have high tea with his sons. The Georgian childhood home of his former wife is where Imran stays whenever he is in London, as a guest of her mother, Lady Annabel Goldsmith. The wing where we meet is modest: with a pool table and well-worn sofas.

He speaks cordially — if carefully —about his ex-wife. “It’s a very tricky thing, divorce, and toughest on the children. But as divorces go, ours has been the most amicable. The anger and bitterness comes when there is infidelity. But there was no infidelity,” he says firmly. “I realised her unhappiness in Pakistan and she, after trying her best, found she just couldn’t live there. So that’s why it ended, it was just a geographical problem, and we couldn’t sustain a marriage like that. If you care for someone you don’t want to see them unhappy. My connection with the Goldsmith household is just as it’s always been. They [Jemima’s siblings, Zac and Ben] are like my younger brothers. And Annabel is as close to me.”

His marriage suffered because of his political zeal — he didn’t stand in the 2007 election, arguing that there could be no democracy while the judges were still controlled by the ruling party. But now politics is a mission for him, not a career. “If someone offered me a political career, I would shoot myself. Having to get votes through making compromises, no thank you.

“The classic example in England is Tony Blair.

How did the people go wrong with him lying all the way? He sold the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction. If there had been conscientious politicians in your assembly who weren’t worried about their political careers, he would never have got away with it.”

Many people think his involvement in politics is a way to keep alight the adulation he craved as a cricketer, but after leaving Aitchison College in Lahore (the equivalent of Eton), he studied politics at Keble College, Oxford. Former cricketing colleagues — Imran played for Worcestershire and Sussex — recall an intense young man who hated pubs (as a Muslim he doesn’t drink) and public speaking. He returned to cricket once more at the World Cup in 1992, aged 39 when he captained Pakistan to victory.

But his spiritual awakening had come in his early thirties after witnessing his mother’s agonising death from cancer, without access to proper treatment and painkilling drugs. “She was in such agony that after she passed away I had to consciously discipline myself to shut out the memory of her pain.”

He consulted a mystic who “made me realise I had a responsibility to society because I was given so much. It created selflessness.” Imran approached Pakistan’s richest men — many had been schoolfriends — for help in raising £25 million to build a cancer hospital, but quickly learned that wealth and generosity don’t always go hand in hand. Instead, he took to an open jeep and toured 29 cities in six weeks, asking ordinary people for help. “In those six weeks I changed. I realised the generosity of tea boys, taxi drivers, the poorest people bringing 10 rupee notes and also their faith. I collected £14 million in those six weeks.” Today the hospital treats 70 per cent of patients for free.

Although the dictatorial president, Pervez Musharraf, resigned in 2008, Imran has no faith in the current “democratic” government, now headed by Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto. Imran talks passionately about how the rich in Pakistan travel by jet and have tax-evading bank accounts in Switzerland.

He may insist that support for his Movement for Justice party is growing, but the truth is he is still perceived as a maverick outsider. And his romantic past hasn’t helped. Conservative voters bring up the love child with Sita White (Imran has never publicly acknowledged Tyrian, now 17, as his daughter; but since her mother died in 2004, he has been involved in her upbringing). And of course there’s his marriage to Jemima, a half-Jewish, half Catholic heiress.

Despite converting to Islam and learning Urdu, Jemima — 20 years Imran’s junior and still at university when they met — was accused (falsely) of trying to smuggle antique tiles out of Pakistan. The final straw, says Imran, was in 2002 when she was accused of studying under “the blasphemer Salman Rushdie” because his book, The Satanic Verses, had appeared on her university reading list. Protesters torched posters of Jemima. “She was really shaken up by that and moved to England, so that was a big crisis for me.”

Two years later the marriage ended. Jemima has continued to impress as Unicef special representative — and a passionate advocate for democracy in Pakistan. “Frankly I never understood the media image of her as a socialite,” Imran tells me. “I never thought she would fit into that role because she’s very bright, she’s very political.”

But then Imran is a mass of contradictions himself. In the past, he has argued that the pressure on women to work has contributed to the breakdown of society in the West: “My mother was the biggest influence on my life, a proper mother.” Yet he believes that “a woman should be able to reach her full potential”, and he set up his university in a remote, conservative part of Pakistan precisely so local women could get an education for the first time in the region’s history. And he reminds me his three sisters are high-powered career women with children.

Pakistan is Imran’s passion and he feels little nostalgia for London — except as the place where his sons live: “Fatherhood has given me the greatest pleasure in my life. And hence it was very painful, the divorce, because that [being separated from them] was the main aspect. But I am basically a goal-orientated person, it’s never been about making money or a job. My passion is there so I only come to England to see my children.” Imran has a core group of friends he has known for 40 years here. Setting up this interview, I came across a devoted group of Londoners — from lecturers to hairdressers — who give up time and money to support his party. “They know I do not have to do this, that it’s a big personal sacrifice,” he says.

He finds it desperately sad that he has to defend being a Muslim. “The most important thing to understand is what’s happening in Pakistan, and this war on terror is not a religious issue, it’s a political issue.” No religion allows terrorism, Imran insists, but “people pushed into desperate situations will do desperate acts”.

It doesn’t make him popular. He’s been dubbed a Taliban supporter by the same enemies who once called him a Zionist sympathiser. Critics say his politics are idealistic and unworkable in a country bailed out of chaos periodically by military regimes, but Imran insists democracy can be a street movement: “Yes there’s a fear, will Pakistan survive? But in a way it’s very encouraging because you can see the politicisation of the youth. That’s how it starts, in the campuses. Sixty-five per cent of Pakistanis are below the age of 25.”

This probably explains why four days ago, with the help of Jemima, Imran set up his own Twitter page. Back home, he says current affairs programmes get higher ratings than Big Brother.

“Our Paxmans are the most watched in Pakistan today.” Is he handing over the baton? He smiles wearily. “Basically I want the young to come in and upset the whole equation.”

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American Justice?

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yvonne Ridley

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Many of us are still in a state of shock over the guilty verdict returned on Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

The response from the people of Pakistan was predictable and overwhelming and I salute their spontaneous actions. From Peshawar to Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and beyond they marched in their thousands demanding the return of Aafia.

Even some of the US media expressed discomfort over the verdict returned by the jurors … there was a general feeling that something was not right. Everyone had something to say, everyone that is except the usually verbose US Ambassador Anne Patterson who has spent the last two years briefing against Dr Aafia and her supporters.

This is the same woman who claimed I was a fantasist when I gave a press conference with Tehreek e Insaf leader Imran Khan back in July 2008 revealing the plight of a female prisoner in Bagram called the Grey Lady.

She said I was talking nonsense and stated categorically that the prisoner I referred to as “650” did not exist. By the end of the month she changed her story and said there had been a female prisoner but that she was most definitely not Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

By that time Aafia had been gunned down at virtually point blank range in an Afghan prison cell jammed full of more than a dozen US soldiers, FBI agents and Afghan police.

Her Excellency briefed the media that the prisoner had wrested an M4 gun from one soldier and fired off two rounds and had to be subdued. The fact these bullets failed to hit a single person in the cell and simply disappeared did not resonate with the diplomat.

In a letter dripping in untruths on August 16 2008 she decried the “erroneous and irresponsible media reports regarding the arrest of Ms Aafia Siddiqui”. She went on to say: “Unfortunately, there are some who have an interest in simply distorting the facts in an effort to manipulate and inflame public opinion. The truth is never served by sensationalism…”

When Jamaat Islami invited me on a national tour of Pakistan to address people about the continued abuse of Dr Aafia and the truth about her incarceration in Bagram, the US Ambassador continued to issue rebuttals.

She assured us all that Dr Aafia was being treated humanely had been given consular access as set out in international law … hmm. Well I have a challenge for Ms Patterson today. I challenge her to repeat every single word she said back then and swear it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

As Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s trial got underway, the US Ambassador and some of her stooges from the intelligence world laid on a lavish party at the US Embassy in Islamabad for some hand-picked journalists where I’ve no doubt in between the dancing, drinks and music they were carefully briefed about the so-called facts of the case.

Interesting that some of the potentially incriminating pictures taken at the private party managed to find the Ambassador was probably hoping to minimize the impact the trial would have on the streets of Pakistan proving that, for the years she has been holed up and barricaded behind concrete bunkers and barbed wire, she has learned nothing about this great country of Pakistan or its people.

One astute Pakistani columnist wrote about her: “The respected lady seems to have forgotten the words of her own country’s 16th president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865): “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

And the people of Pakistan proved they are nobody’s fool and responded to the guilty verdict in New York in an appropriate way.

When injustice is the law it is the duty of everyone to rise up and challenge that injustice in any way possible. The response – so far – has been restrained and measured but it is just the start. A sentence has yet to be delivered by Judge Richard Berman in May.

Of course there has been a great deal of finger pointing and blame towards the jury in New York who found Dr Aafia guilty of attempted murder.

Observers asked how they could ignore the science and the irrefutable facts … there was absolutely no evidence linking Dr Aafia to the gun, no bullets, no residue from firing it.

But I really don’t think we can blame the jurors for the verdict – you see the jury simply could not handle the truth. Had they taken the logical route and gone for the science and the hard, cold, clinical facts it would have meant two things. It would have meant around eight US soldiers took the oath and lied in court to save their own skins and careers or it would have meant that Dr Aafia Siddiqui was telling the truth.

And, as I said before, the jury couldn’t handle the truth. Because that would have meant that the defendant really had been kidnapped, abused, tortured and held in dark, secret prisons by the US before being shot and put on a rendition flight to New York. It would have meant that her three children – two of them US citizens – would also have been kidnapped, abused and tortured by the US.

They say ignorance is bliss and this jury so desperately wanted not to believe that the US could have had a hand in the kidnapping of a five-month -old baby boy, a five-year-old girl and her seven-year-old brother.

They couldn’t handle the truth … it is as simple as that.

Well I, and many others across the world like me, can’t handle any more lies. America’s reputation is lying in the lowest gutters in Pakistan at the moment and it can’t sink any lower.

The trust has gone, there is only a burning hatred and resentment towards a superpower which sends unmanned drones into villages to slaughter innocents.
It is fair to say that America’s goodwill and credibility is all but washed up with most honest, decent citizens of Pakistan.

And I think even Her Excellency Anne Patterson recognizes that fact which is why she is now keeping her mouth shut.

If she has any integrity and any self respect left she should stand before the Pakistan people and ask for their forgiveness for the drone murders, the extra judicial killings, the black operations, the kidnapping, torture and rendition of its citizens, the water-boarding, the bribery, the corruption and, not least of all, the injustice handed out to Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her family.

She should then pick up the phone to the US President and tell him to release Aafia and return Pakistan’s most loved, respected and famous daughter and reunite her with the two children who are still missing.

Then she should re-read her letter of August 16, 2008 and write another … one of resignation.

Yvonne Ridley is a patron of Cageprisoners which first brought the plight of Dr Aafia Siddiqui to the world’s attention shortly after her kidnap in March 2003. The award-winning, investigative journalist also co-produced the documentary In Search of Prisoner 650 with film-maker Hassan al Banna Ghani which concluded that the Grey Lady of Bagram was Dr Aafia Siddiqui

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I27)

June 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Both Best of Times & Most Crucial Times in Pakistan: Imran Khan

Imran Khan Spoke About Future Of Pakistan At World Affairs Council (G)

The World Affairs Council (WAC) is one of Houston’s most prominent citizen forums. Through guest speakers and over 80 seminars and events, WAC gives chance to people of different view points on various issues to make presentation, especially matters related to current world events. Idea is to promote better understanding of international relations and contributes to national and international policy debates. The result is a better educated citizenry and the advancement of Houston as an important international center. Some of the prominent speakers at WAC have been: Madeleine Albright; James Baker, III; Prince Bandar Bin Sultan; Fernando Henrique Cardoso; Wesley Clark; William S. Cohen; Thomas Friedman; Robert Gates; George Mitchell; General Colin Powell; David Rockefeller; Lech Walesa; and Fareed Zakaria.

This past Monday, prominent philanthropist, sports and political figure of Pakistan Imran Khan gave a candid presentation to hundreds of WAC members on “Future of Pakistan” at a special luncheon at Omni Hotel. Program was sponsored by the Pakistani-American Council of Texas (PACT). President of PACT Sajjad Burki, Executive Members of PACT & Pakistani Community and Council General of Pakistan in Houston Aqil Nadeem were in attendance.

In his presentation, Imran Khan gave detailed history of Pakistan; South Asian Region; cultural traits of people of Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan; and much more. He said USA Government is not getting proper advise about this things and in his recent meetings with Senators Kerry and Ackerman, he has asked them to find right people to know more about the people of the area. Imran himself have gone on a road journey of all these areas and written books like “Indus Journey: A Personal View of Pakistan” and “Warrior Race: A Journey Through the Land of the Tribal Pathans”.

Imran Khan said that Pakistan is going through unprecedented times in her short 62 years history. Citing incidents of the rough times Chief Justice of Supreme Court Iftikhar Chaudhry and Media in Pakistan have gone through in the past few years, Imran Khan said that today what we see in Pakistan was never seen before in the history of Pakistan, which is that the Judiciary and Media are independent. Elections are just one of the means to have democracy, but actually institutions like Judiciary and Media are what really build good democracy. True test of the independence and Vibrancy of Judiciary and Media will come, when the next General Elections will be held.

Imran Khan said while on one hand we have seen optimism through successful struggles of Judiciary and Media (which got overwhelming support from the public): On the other hand, Pakistan is plagued by the wrong policies of the war on terror, which have been implemented by Governments of USA and Pakistan (he has been against the policies used in war of terror from the very beginning). Terrorism is an idea and ideas are not fought by military powers. Reason is when one applies power, terrorists, who are not regular armies; they retreat into civilian populations or into other hide-outs, and massive collateral damage of innocent people means more recruits towards terrorist side. After 9/11, clearly AL-Qaeda was the main force and Talebans were not. The Talebans merely asked for proof and said they will hand over AL-Qaeda suspects if given proofs: That could have been easily done.

Imran further said that terrorism is a political issue and has nothing to do with any religion. Past eight years and similar war in Ireland are proofs that this war on terror can only finish with dialogue, as such a process clearly identifies, who are the wrong guys and then they can be surgically removed or even in cases won back into own camp. There is need to isolate the terrorist and not giving them opportunities to get more recruits through indiscriminate bombing and use of force. At present, what is happening in Swat has public backing: However this is also known that to catch about 5,000 persons, Government of Pakistan has displaced 3.5 Million persons, creating a catastrophe of mammoth proportions. Now if these 5,000 persons have run away like gorillas do and not captured, these 3.5 Million Displaced Pakistanis will demand the Government for retribution and God Forbidding if nothing is done, we have potential of more violence, as these 3.5 Million people have lost their entire livelihood.

As such discourse has to start at the earliest and such dialogues will result in several disappointments, rejections and failures, but past evidence and loud thinking clearly show that to persevere with the process of dialogue and avoidance of making way for people to join terrorist camps, is what will eventually bring peace and end the ideology of terrorism. He said Benazir Bhutto would have been better in situation like this.

Four Centers of ISGH Successfully Hosted ICNA Annual Knowledge & Skills Competition

ICNA Houston Quizz - Knowledge - & - Skills Competition - H (June 20 2009) For the past fifteen times, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Houston Chapter organized Islamic Knowledge and Skills Competition for various age groups of 4 and 19 at the University of Houston and Rice University. This year through the sponsorship of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH), ICNA Houston Chapter organized competitions at four ISGH Centers (Adel Road, Bear Creek, Synott Road and Hwy 3). These year maximum numbers of youth were able to participate. Finalists from each zone will now compete at the 4th ICNA-MAS South Regional Conference at Rice University on July 04th, 2009 (more info at www.icnasouth.com). For more information, one can call 1-866-CUB-ADAM.

An Open Letter–From Pakistan–To President Obama

February 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imran Khan

The U.S. and NATO should withdraw from Afghanistan.

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Picture:  Imran Khan (right) Greets AQ Khan upon the latter’s release from house arrest.  Reuters

 

Dear President Obama,

Your extraordinary ascent to the U.S. Presidency is, to a large part, a reflection of your remarkable ability to mobilize society, particularly the youth, with the message of “change.” Indeed, change is what the world is yearning for after eight long and almost endless years of carnage let loose by a group of neo-cons that occupied the White House.

Understandably, your overarching policy focus would be the security and welfare of all U.S. citizens and so it should be. Similarly, our first and foremost concern is the protection of Pakistani lives and the prosperity of our society. We may have different social and cultural values, but we share the fundamental values of peace, harmony, justice and equality before law.

No people desire change more than the people of Pakistan, as we have suffered the most since 9/11, despite the fact that none of the perpetrators of the acts of terrorism unleashed on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, were Pakistani. Our entire social, political and economic fabric is in a state of meltdown. Our sovereignty, dignity and self-respect have been trampled upon. The previous U.S. administration invested in dictators and corrupt politicians by providing them power crutches in return for total compliance to pursue its misconceived war on terror.

There are many threats confronting our society today, including the threat of extremism. In a society where the majority is without fundamental rights, without education, without economic opportunities, without health care, the use of sheer force and loss of innocent lives continues to expand the extremist fringe and contract the space for the moderate majority.

Without peace and internal security, the notion of investing in development in the war zones is a pipe dream, as the anticipated benefits would never reach the people. So the first and foremost policy objective should be to restore the peace. This can only be achieved through a serious and sustained dialogue with the militants and mitigation of their genuine grievances under the ambit of our constitution and law. Since Pakistan’s founding leader signed a treaty in 1948 with the people of the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and withdrew Pakistani troops, they had remained the most peaceful and trouble-free part of Pakistan up until the post-9/11 situation, when we were asked to deploy our troops in FATA.

Even a cursory knowledge of Pushtun history shows that for reasons of religious, cultural and social affinity, the Pushtuns on both sides of the Durand Line (which marks the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan) cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of their brethren on either side. The Pushtuns are proud of their history of resisting every invader from Alexander onwards, to the Persians, Moghuls, British and the Russians (all superpowers of their times) who were all bogged down in the Pushtun quagmire. So, no government, Pakistani or foreign, will ever be able to stop Pushtuns crossing over the 1,500-kilometer border to support their brethren in distress on either side, even if it means fighting the modern-day superpower in Afghanistan. Recent history shows how the mighty Soviet Union had to retreat from Afghanistan with its army defeated even though it had killed over a million Afghans.

To an average Pushtun, notwithstanding the U.N. Security Council sanction, the U.S. is an occupying power in Afghanistan that must be resisted. It is as simple as that. Therefore, the greatest challenge confronting U.S. policy in Afghanistan is how to change its status from an occupier to a partner. The new U.S. administration should have no doubt that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. As more innocent Pushtuns are killed, more space is created for new Taliban and even Al-Qaida recruits–revenge being an integral part of the Pushtun character. So, as with Iraq, the U.S. should give a time table for withdrawal from Afghanistan and replace NATO and U.S. forces with U.N. troops during the interim period.

The Pushtuns then should be involved in a dialogue process where they should be given a stake in the peace. As the majority’s stake in peace grows, proportionately the breeding ground for extremists shrinks.

The crucial lesson the U.S. needs to learn–and learn quickly–is that you can only win against terrorists if the majority in a community considers them terrorists. Once they become freedom fighters and heroes amongst their people, history tells us that the battle is lost.

Terrorism worldwide is an age-old phenomenon and cannot be eliminated by rampaging armies, no matter how powerful. It can only be contained by a strategy of building democratic societies and addressing the root causes of political conflicts. The democratization part of this strategy demands a strategic partnership between the West and the people of the Islamic world, who are basically demanding dignity, self-respect and the same fundamental rights as the ordinary citizen in the West enjoys. However, this partnership can only be forged if the U.S. and its close Western allies are prepared to accept and coexist with credible democratic governments in the Islamic world that may not support all U.S. policies as wholeheartedly as dictators and discredited politicians do in order to remain in power.

The roots of terror and violence lie in politics–and so does the solution. We urge the new administration to conduct a major strategic review of the U.S.-led war on terror, including the nature and kind of support that should realistically be expected of Pakistan keeping in mind its internal security interests. Linking economic assistance to sealing of its western frontier will only force the hand of a shaky and unstable government in Pakistan to use more indiscriminate force in FATA, a perfect recipe for disaster.

The stability of the region hinges on a stable Pakistan. Any assistance to improve governance and social indicators must not be conditional. For the simple reason that any improvement in the overall quality of life of ordinary citizens and more effective writ of the state would only make mainstream society less susceptible to extremism. However, if the new U.S. administration continues the Bush administration’s mantra of “do more,” to which our inept leadership is likely to respond to by using more force, Pakistan could become even more accessible to forces of extremism leading to further instability that would spread across the region, especially into India, which already faces problems of extremism and secessionist movements. Such a scenario would benefit no one–certainly not Pakistan and certainly not the U.S. That is why your message of meaningful change, Mr. President, must guide your policies in this region also.

Imran Khan is chairman and founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice), and served as an elected member of Pakistan’s parliament from 2002-08. The captain of the Pakistan team that won the cricket World Cup in 1992, he founded the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center, the biggest charitable institution in Pakistan. He is chancellor of the University of Bradford, in the U.K.

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