In Review

Pakistan: A Personal History

Published 17 Mar, 2015 07:21pm

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.