Imran Khan’s maiden visit to GHQ and ISI
SM Hali


Prime Minister Imran Khan is a curious personality, having been a world class sportsman, a celebrity in his own rights when he won the 1992 Cricket World Cup. Coming out of retirement, captaining a team of players, who were torn with internal strife, rated as the bottom few teams, he gelled them together. After overcoming initial trouncing, he ultimately held the coveted World Cup aloft, astride the shoulders of his jubilant team mates, who ultimately gave their best and brought joy to a nation where glad tidings are few and far in between.

The same was the case with building the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre. It was an uphill task when he set off on the mammoth task, but his mass appeal, personal charisma and people’s belief in the noble project enabled him to achieve it. My own children, ten, eight and five years old at that time, would save their lunch money, Eidi and savings to donate to the Shaukat Khanum fund contributions. At Eid-ul-Adha, they would insist that the animal skins must go to the Shaukat Khanum fund. Similar experiences were shared by other colleagues and friends; no wonder ‘Imran’s Tigers’ supported him in their formative years and continue to do so.

Giving up a life of ease, when Imran Khan decided to enter politics, he was laughed at because Cricket is a game of gentlemen and politics is not cricket. The compromises, back stabbing, arm twisting, blackmail coupled with bribery and sleaze of the political arena, was not a world Imran Khan — with his squeaky clean record of neither ball tampering nor tolerating those who did so, would be welcomed. Indeed the first few years were disappointing.

Khan’s spontaneous comments regarding the professionalism, operational readiness, contributions and sacrifices of the Armed Forces of Pakistan in defending the geographical, maritime and aerial boundaries of Pakistan, especially during the War on Terror came from the heart

This scribe, met him first while serving as Air and Naval Attaché at Riyadh in 1993. Imran Khan was on his fund-raising campaign for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust. The Ambassador detailed me to help organise events, which were very successful. My second encounter was in 2002, after my retirement and having joined a media research organisation. A friend of a friend wanted us, to provide an analysis of Imran Khan’s chances in the 2002, general elections. Imran Khan had been assured by some of his advisors that he would be the next Prime Minister. After our analysis we gave the budding politician a reality check. He had no chances of winning the elections. His only opportunity was in his own constituency, where he was up against a PML(Q) — the King’s Party — candidate. To defeat him, he would have to work very hard. Luckily he accepted our findings and recommendations, winning his maiden seat.

2013, was a different kettle of fish, having struggled for another 12 years, he believed he had good chances but was deprived of it by alleged rigging. He took to organising protest rallies, which brought no results and his constant appeals to the “neutral umpire” caused his detractors to claim that he was being favoured by the Army and ISI. General Raheel Sharif did remain neutral and did not upset the applecart of democracy.

Having won the 2018, elections hands down, Imran Khan is in for another reality check; he has to take numerous decisions, which may be unpopular but one very important step he took was visiting the General Headquarters along with five key ministers for a security briefing, lasting eight hours. The unprecedented protocol he was accorded, the frank and candid interaction, with neither the civilian leadership nor the military top brass looking behind one’s shoulders for Antonio Prohias’ Mad magazine ‘Spy vs. Spy’ milieu, was refreshing. This is how mature states work, following the constitutional responsibilities of each organ of the state. A similar ambiance was visible in the PM’s long and detailed interaction at the ISI headquarters.

In his own turn, Imran Khan, once the dreaded master of swing bowling, has bowled some nasty bouncers in the political stadia, even castigating the Army. Now at the helm of affairs, the view from the top is not only different but when realism is presented on unvarnished platters, internal as well as external threats are discussed; it is enough to shock you out of your wits.

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown but the PM’s unbridled enthusiasm in leading the team — this time the nation — surmounting the challenges is appreciable. His spontaneous comments regarding the professionalism, operational readiness, contributions and sacrifices of the Armed Forces of Pakistan in defending the geographical, maritime and aerial boundaries of Pakistan, especially the war on terror came from the heart.

It is hoped and prayed, that despite being inexperienced, fallible and human, the new equilibrium between various sectors of the state will enable Pakistan to puts its woes behind and the new government will live up to the confidence reposed into it by the nation.