But why should Benazir fear Imran’s popularity? Simple. For over a year now , there have been speculations about Imran joining politics . And the recent visit of Princes Diana to Pakistan at his invitation has only fuelled rumours about Imran ‘s imminent plunge into politics. In this exclusive interview, Imran Khan clarifies his position and explains his transformation from a crickter to a political activist who wants to reform the corrupt system in Pakistan. Experts:
Q: The government‘s decision to keep you out of television has created a stir. How have you personally taken this?
A: Well, the government is behaving like a fascist regime and I guess, I expected this to happen.
But my main concern hospital (the Shaukat Khanam Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore) not being allowed to feature on T.V. The thing is that it is a hospital which depends on public donations. If an institution depends on public money is not advertise on T.V. then the people who donated the money can’t see the institution functioning, whether the quality remains up to the mark or not. Then they start doubting its future.
At the same time, there’s a disinformation campaign against the hospital. There was a case in high court against it. Every top politician has made statement against the hospital. That creates a lot of disinformation. So we have to establish our credibility by coming on T.V. Now if you’re not allowed to go on T.V that creates problems. And that’s annoys me. That’s what worries me. Being blacked out as a crickter really means nothing.
Q: Coming to cricket, your captaincy played a big role in Pakistan world cup triumph in 1992. Yet you were not there even for a single day at the wills world cup conditioning camp. Wasim Akram pleaded with you to come and spend some time with his team. Yet, you never went. Why?
A: Yes, Wasim did ask me. But I thought this team was way ahead of any other team. There is no team that compares to Pakistan in terms of brilliance. Look at their varity. Look at their quality of the bowling attack as compared to the other teams. They‘ve got a quality leg-spinner. An off-spinner who is, perhaps, the best in the world. They’ve the best fast bowling attack. Experienced as well. Then look their batting line-up. They‘ve got flamboyant batsmen. Good stroke –makers.
Q: But Javed Mianded tends to think you are quite jealous of him.
A: Why? Why should I jealous of Miandad?
Q: Because he could manage to play six consecutive World cups. Whereas, you had to stop after playing five.
A: Well, for me records are meaningless. Honestly, I find it difficult to understand why people lay so much emphasis on records. I never really cared my records. What is it that is so great about records? Do you sit back in your drawing room ten years later. And read that I have that record and this (laughs)…Records come and go. Kapil has broken Hadlee’s record. Wasim has probably break his, Waqar might break it again…Shane Warne might set new records. So what? It’s just that when you when you play , if you have respect and people acknowledge you as a good player and you leave with your head high in the air rather then your tail between your legs, that’s really matters to me .
Q: World Tel was very keen to work with you and according to reports, has placed a very lucrative contract before you. The government couldn’t have blacked out your commentary. Why did you let go this opportunity?
A: they did sound me out. But I don’t see my role in cricket any more. To go and commented in all the matches didn’t sound very stimulating to me. Just the final would be nice.
Q: Going back to politics, there are so many contradictory stories about your joining politics that the average person is bound to get confused. Once and for all, will you clarify your stand?
A: I will tell you exactly it is. The confusion is the result of disinformation spread by the politicians. Because the politicians tend to think that everyone in this world just wants to become the prime Minister. If you happen to know the politicians, their soul purpose in life is to somehow either become a Minister or a prime Minister. They don’t understand that there are a lot of people in this world who aren’t particularly interested in becoming Prime Minister. Most of us are normal human being and quite happy with your lives. We have everything.
I for one, feel that God has given me everything. What we want in this country is reform movement. We want a change. We want a put on end to this corruption. We want an end to this fascist system. This is a democracy just in name. See how the people are exploited in this country.
So, what I intend to do is to start a movement that will fight for reforms. But I need a team and proper programme for that and which is what I’m doing right now. That’s the true picture.
Q: The reform movement you talk about is something that has never happened in Pakistan before. There are hundreds of pressures group in the United States, but not a single one exists in Pakistan.
A: yeah, this will be inshallah the first one. Let’s see. People are quite sick and tried of what is happening in this country. The politicians spend millions of rupees to get into power and then they use their positions to get the money back. People are sick and tried of this. We want our issues to be dealt with. We want our rights.
Q: You talk like the leader of the opposition.
A; Why say that? The biggest example I gave you was the hospital. It has been functioning for the last 14 months. And all these months. We tried to get the hospital to feature on T.V. And we have not been allowed. And mind you, television is run with help of the tax payer’s money.
Q: In other words, are you trying to say you’d rather be a political Robin Hood and not the Wazir-e-Azam of Pakistan.
A: It’s not that. What’s the objective in life? Be clear about that. Is it your soul aim to sit the Prime Minister’s chair? If my objective was to become the Prime Minister, I would have gone about it differently.
Infact, I was twice offered minister-ship in the interim government. I was asked by one of the major political parties to join those three-four years back when my popularity was at its pick the world cup triumph. I would have joined the party.
Q: your colleague in the Pakistani cricket team, Sarfaraz Nawaz who is now sports adviser to the prime Minister, had alleged in a press conference at Rawalpindi that you are a RAW agent who is trying destablise Pakistan. He also charged that your marriage to Jemima was master minded by RAW…
A: What more do you expect from illiterate people, who have no integrity, like Sarfaraz? I think the only reason an illiterate man like Sarfaraz is there in the government is because he can never speak the truth. Infact , Sarfaraz typifies Pakistan politics , Which is full of people who have no merit. What has he done for the people? His only job to work as a henchman for his bosses. And the sad thing is that people who have respect and integrity are today scared of people like Sarfaraz Nawaz. We are trying to fight against people like him.
Q: You always maintained that never went never went into something unless you were fully prepared. Do you think you are thoroughly to take a plunge into politics?
A: No preparation starts when you have definite intention and when you come into the field. I’m already in it. I’ll start soon, after I have decided on my programme, about the team I’m going to work with.
Q: Political circle in Pakistan were agog with rumours that Princess Diana’s recent visit to the country was part of your political campaign…
A: how can people be so stupid? What did she do? Did she make speeches? Did she go for a meeting? All she did was to visit the hospital, she saw the patients, the facilities over here.
As a result the hospital became the focus of attention of the international media. We got publicity, which is very vital for the institution. The equation is simple. If we don’t get publicity, we can’t collect public fund. So all princesses Diana did was to give a big boost to our fund collection drive. How is this politically motivated?
Q: But many people said that this was your way of showing the government that you are acceptable to the west…
A: Honestly that was not the intention. The intention was very clear, about which I elaborated earlier. Infact we have a fund-raising dinner. We raised about four million rupees. We need fund desperately. Ninety-two percent of the patients are treated free at the hospital. Princess Diana’s visit gave a tremendous boost to our money-raising efforts.
Q: Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was your contemporary at oxford. And both of you were quite friendly then. How come so much animosity has developed between the two of you now?
A: I suppose it’s just that we look at things differently.
Q: Which of the two of you hold responsible for the present state of affairs in Pakistan: the people around Benazir or the system?
A: Who knows? I have not met her for years. I don’t really know much about her ideologies. I cannot say whether she is a prisoner of our system