Pakistan: A Personal History

Imran Khan, the author of the book, with his sons.

Imran Khan, the author of the book, with his sons.

Pakistan: A Personal History
Imran Khan
Random House
London, 2011
Price: 995 rupees

Many believe that he is a closet Taliban. But, if we go by his latest book, Pakistan: A Personal History, and set aside the numerous instances when he has failed to unequivocally condemn terrorism in the country, we may be inclined to take a somewhat less uncharitable view of Imran Khan’s political orientation.
This is not to say that the former cricket captain and chief of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf is not obsessed with religion. He is. Since the mid-1980s when he embarked on his ‘spiritual journey’, faith has come to colour his worldview. Jinnah, who is owned by both religious and secular elements is painted in Islamic tones. The book also provides a long-winded background of Islam, with a whole chapter devoted to poet-philosopher Iqbal and his views on man, society and religion. And yet, contrary to Taliban thoughts on the subject, Khan does, rather grandiloquently, assert: “The hope of saving our planet lies in collaboration, rather than competition, amongst all the great religions of the world…”
Similarly, he concedes the brutality of the Taliban in Swat. Fazlullah’s men are described as lawless and “bolstered by a rag-tag collection of jihadi and sectarian groups, common criminals, sharia law supporters and angry peasants.”
What Khan disagrees with is the war on terror and the employing of a military strategy that he feels creates more militants. Ninety per cent of the tribal Taliban are “neither extremists nor terrorists. They are simply our own tribal people fighting because of army interventions, drone attacks … and anger over the US occupation of Afghanistan”. It is for views such as these that, Khan feels, he is labelled a Taliban sympathiser — and this is a tag he seems anxious to be rid of when he says that Pakistan will never be Talibanised.
Still, his anger is reserved for ‘corrupt leaders’, and he comes across as more of a raconteur than a man shaken by the blasts that have felled schools and buildings, men, women and children.
He is witness to the fear of non-Muslims and the killing of those who attempt to defend them – he says minorities are considered “fair game” by the militants – but somehow, his energies are taken up more with the defence of religion rather than coming down heavily on the “10 per cent” who kill in its name.
There is still confusion, at least in the mind of the reader, about what balance is to be struck and how far this would take his party in its quest for ‘social justice’ and political power. In fact, far more human are his accounts of growing up in Zaman Park in Lahore, building a cancer hospital in the memory of a beloved mother, his marriage and sons, even his spiritual mentor Mian Bashir — and of course, cricket. And far more interesting are his anecdotes about — General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif: all tarred with the same brush but who nevertheless contribute to the ‘personal’ part of his book. This is where Khan the man as opposed to Khan the ideologue emerges.

Further reading
Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations, 2011
This collection, gathered from privileged authorised access to Mandela’s personal archive of private papers, speeches, correspondence and audio recordings, features nearly 2,000 quotations spanning over 60 years.

The Jackie Kennedy tapes, 2011
Jackie’s seven-part interview with her friend, historian and White House aide Arthur M Schlesinger Jr, conducted not long after her husband’s assassination, was finally made publicly accessible to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy presidency.

No Higher Honor by Condoleezza Rice, 2011
Condi reflects on her life in politics — she tells all about the late Colonel Qaddafi’s obsession with her (he called her his “African princess”), 9/11 and the subsequent investigation and Iraq’s WMDs.

33 thoughts on “Pakistan: A Personal History

  1. Overtly or covertly, some authors have tried and will continue to try to discredit Mr. Khan for little and benign things. He may not be a perfect man, but he seems perfect for checking the biggest problems in the country, i.e. corruption and lack of acccountibility at almost all levels. All problems the country is facing today can be traced to corruption and lack of accountibilty, which always give rise to to unfairess and lawlessness. Regarding the Talibans, there are strong indications that all who deal with them pray to have an honorable face saving deal and exit from the situation. Mr. Khan did not put the contry in this mess, he is only sincerly trying to save the country.
    He seems undoubtly the best avaiable and sincere person for the job!

  2. .I don’t know why most politicians write their books too early. They take their cookies out when they are not even half baked. And look what happens to them soon after, quite contrary to what they thought and wrote. They had so little to share. Reminds me of a proverb, “Little wool, great cry.” It is something that you find in every newly born baby, like a newly born country who finds it absolutely necessary to have an airline and a steel mill, no matter, if it will bankrupt it in near future. Going back to newly born politicians, one thing is clear, the moment, they start writing the book, proves that they have arrived where they think they start believing thay are indispensable, absolutely correct. that’s where the beginning of the end begins!

    • True. It is indeed Pakistan’s misfortune that we have failed to produce a leader who is led by intellect and the moral courage to persevere what he knows is the right course, and not by destructive emotions like ego and cowardice.

    • I respectfully, disagree with Agha Ata Sahib. because I would like to see him(Imran Khan) to show his abilities, honesty, love for the nation and country(motherland). If he is not sincere , he will not survive more than one term.

      • Well,
        I disagree with Agha Ata Sahib !!
        Let Khan try himself in the political arena. It will depend in his abilities to handle his MPs after his successful win over the corrupt elites of the all parties in the field of political uneven ground.Pakistan have been living in the dream world, foolish world leaving his neighbours behind and doing US & war with his neighbours instead of neighbourly relations..
        Mr. 10% is the to taken care first, i mean the internal issues.Mother of all corruptions culture created by is attitude in the country, he is obsessed with $$$
        What Gen. Pervez Mushrraf did? He had been selling Pakistani national to USA for $$$.
        What Sharif brothers have been doing. taking money out of pakistan and setting up the sugar mills in Indad some of industries in Saudi Arabia..
        I think Imran Khan does have some pretty good ideas to have pre-hand assets of the members before they join the P.T.I. & at the end they have to show the assests also. No foreign accounts for all MPS & his family members.

    • I think writing a book in no way suggests that whats written is final. Books are best way to communicate with literate people at large and are helpful for someone who really want to know a person, organization, etc. & there is no doubt in the fact that polititions want to implement their agendas but they in no way think of themselves as indispensable, rather the always look for the social contract.Decisions & thinking of great politition’s like thomas jafferson, woodrow wilson, Bismarck, etc. is still consider vital for political stabilization.

    • Your comments make sense, but the timing of this book seems more sensible in the light of current political landscape. Political candidates all over the world release their personal (and not so personal) memoirs as a part of election campaigns.
      IK, probably, is also targeting educated book-reading crowd and international observers.


  3. I live in USA.I know majority of the Pakistanies will vote for Imran Khan in the upcoming election because he is honest,devoted,educated and has a vision. Look at our neighbors. where they are heading and where we are after 64 years. Our peoples are dying of hunger and diseases while corrupt politicians have nothing else to do except watching their bank balances grow. Sure they know how to feed the hungry masses with empty slogans and pull each other’s legs Do not take my words just check any politician ‘s past and present. Check his bank balance abroad. You will find out the truth.
    How did we get here? We have been fooled by these corrupt politicians for too long. Wake up or our next generation will never forgive us.
    For some reason ,we people, living abroad feel little extra pain for our beloved country which gave us everything. Now it is our turn to do something in return to make this country a better place for our children and their children.

    • Neighbours are doing better because they are not religious bigots. Despite many flaws, their society is rooted in rule of law. Even Imran may not be able to change it because he himself has become one of them.

    • Well.. ur neighbours ain’t in a much better state mate. All problems w.r.t politicians u mentioned are present in your neighbours as well ;) Yes, I am from your neighbouring country !!

  4. @Agha Ata
    I agree that in some cases, it is too early for a leader to make that claim by writing his book. However, I think that might not have been the intent of the book. I believe the objective of the book was to fortify political campaign by reaching a constituency of educated people with leftist leanings in Pakistan who are either unaware, have been misinformed, or are simply confused about the message being disseminated by PTI & IK in general because of the verbal element of it. And it is doing precisely that, I have seen growing acceptance of IK in the educated and reluctant left because of this book.

  5. Mr. Ata’s comments has no sensible justifcatons IK has never claimed that he has reaeched zenith of politics or leadership or he has become a wholesome leader, he is simply descirbing the derivatives of his convictions and and beleife system. What has motiviated him to become what he is now. I don’t find anything wrong if someone telling from where he has learned his wisdom. it is criticism for the sake of criticism nothing else.

  6. I think this book has had quite an impact on me. Somehow it reminds me of Shahab Nama because of the the small amount of spiritual inklings present in this book. Imran has brilliantly commented on the double standards of the west while carefully avoiding conspiracy theories.
    There’s some implicit questions raised, such as don’t the West see that bombarding the tribal belt will eventually break up our country….well maybe this is what they are after.
    The message in the book is in the last paragraph. Imran is now ready to take over the reins of our country.

  7. @Agha Ata: Not that I am pro-Imran Khan or something; just that it *may* not have been the intent, I agree with @Falcon. Plus, given that, the times have changed, along with the “competition” posed by the existing lot, there is no harm throwing in dice. Just that, it seems, he is ca(ul?)pable.

    • Aki Khan, PTI or Imran Khan doesnt need to pay me as I am not an oiinpon maker, unlike the author of this column, who by the is only expressing his oiinpon rather than facts as he admitted in his reply. Unfortunately its the oiinpons and facts are confused in our society which has resulted in this mess and confusion. Everyone is entitled to his/her oiinpon. I support PTI and Imran khan because, as far as I am concerned, I can not see any other politician who is more credible than him, more honest, sincere, educated and under least foreign influence. Plus he has absolutely no other motives in joining Pakistani politics than to try and solve the common man’s problems. Before he stepped into politics, he was enjoying international popularity and respect, had more than enough resources to enjoy a nice comfortable life. He does not need to be in power to protect his assets or to attain more. That is why I think of all the people currently in politics, he is more likely to be the one who can solve our problems. The fact that these problems can not be solved in short term, as the author mentioned in another column, DOES NOT mean we let things be as they are, in the hands of the most corrupt.

  8. Imran rightly quoted in his book, “First they IGNORE you, then they LAUGH at you, then they FIGHT you, then you WIN.” Mahatma Gandhi
    great book to read, all my Norwegian friends going to receive this book on Xmax eve as gift from Pakistani fellow.

  9. Dear brothers,

    I appreciate the comments but can anyone tell me the right time to publish a book?
    I believe in our society anyone is struggling to achieve a goal, there are always opinions and suggestions, which are good for a developing society, but I feel sorry to see most of the comments are without logic, and there is no actual reason of the comments.

    The justification of my comments is to be always positive and if someone is trying to achieve real goals, should be appreciated.

  10. I feel Imran Khan is secular minded. The one who studies Iqbal can never be extremist or fundamentalist.
    He will emerge as democratic and secular leader, and USA and the Army both know this.

  11. what honesty and leadership.The one who had extra marital relations with Sita white.Supported a dictator and is being supported by establishment.The one who always rubs shoulders high with elite class in U.K and even preferred to marry a western cultural woman.He lacks political maturity.Majority of country men are easily gullible.

  12. This book is about where Imran Khan is today and how he got here. His trials and tribulations. One of the things that he drives his strength from is his faith and his religion. I dont understand why that is a bad thing. There are different things that inspire us in our lives. This author compares imran’s inspiration from his faith and the poetry of Iqbal to the idealogy of the Taliban. How twisted is that? At least Imran has bothered to read iqbal enough to draw the right inspiration from his words. Which is more than what I can say for most Pakistanis. Rang laye gi meri faqa masti ek din

  13. He appears unconvincing and fake when asked tough questions. Most likely, he is a front of the Talibaan, and their master creators, the Military.

  14. Imran Khan is the only real hope in this bleak situation. If however, the people of my country still elect people based on their cast or which province they come from, and same old crooks come back into power to ‘lead’ the country , then maybe we deserve what we have had for the last many decades.

  15. im 33 and witnessd the destruction when i reached about 20 as started realising that our nation is put in the hands of those who have nothing for country and nation so it put our peoples and country in dark and Allah forbid what would be the future if things still directionless. looking at current scenario Imran khan is only option and choice as he has done things for country althogh not in power and even before his partys creation……………….I wish him good luck for his success and image as we can not lose more than what we have lost…So it now seems to be mr khan with another trophy in hand.My one line messge to mr khan that please prove your self and act what ever you promised for the nation simply we want all our credibilty a high rank with all potentials back.

  16. At this age it makes me contemporary of Imran Khan, I think there are no two opinions about what he is saying about the present leaders who have contributed to the destruction of the counry and are continously contributing. we are the witnesses of their crimes, so trust me IK is the only choice.

  17. Iqbal has deeply influenced IK thought & philosophy. His approach towards religion, faith and belief undergone a complete change during his life journey. Moan Bashir is a Sufi whose tempering has softened him much. The kind of belief he has’ is Inclusive, rather than the “Exclusive” concept of religion displayed by Taliban. He has done well by authoring the book. It affords an opportunity to learn & understand his approach towards his thought and future plan. He is only ray of hope, in Pakistan of today.

  18. I dont understand those people who find every ill in Imran Khan ie immature, not a leader, not this blah blah. Like they have very fine leadership on hand in Pakistan and have very sincere “mature” politicians and Imran is just a bad addition! Seriously get a life people, No body is perfect, at present Imran Khan is the best you can go for! leave the tried and tested “mature” crooks and their idealogy of loot and go and then come back and loot again!

  19. Single most agenda I want him to pursue is education, not corruption. Free universal education up to high school level will fix all evils. Eradicating corruption is beyond any one’s capacity. But with education, people can fight corruption.

  20. We all love Imran Khan but what happened in election 2013? Why we don’t use our rights in the right place? I think we have made a bad mistake. We gave the chance again to a corrupt government, now we have to face them again for 5 years. Imran Khan is not a good person but a good leader so we pray for Imran Khan having good health and becoming a leader of Pakistan.

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