The charismatic Imran Khan – former Pakistan cricket captain, currently a politician, party leader, philanthropist and a man described as “Pakistan’s favourite son” – has released his latest work grandly titled ‘Pakistan: A Personal History‘. And a personal history it is for Khan, having merged his own changing identity and with that of the evolving culture and states of Pakistan. Interspersed with philosophical musings of both his own personal life (“I soon realised there was a world of difference between happiness and pleasure-seeking”) and the frank, rich history of Pakistan from it’s very creation in 1947, Khan uses his own cricket career, personal beliefs, political ideals and even his marriage as a prism to reflect on the larger issues at hand in Pakistan today. Beginning first with his own upbringing and family, and juxtaposing this with the creation of Pakistan from its very ‘independence’ and roots in 1947, Khan reflects on the sad beauty of Pakistan, while also highlighting the increasing troubles the state and its people have been undignified with.
Keen to show a side to Pakistan which has previously been defamed by media, and whose identity has become distorted, Khan details the underlying problems Pakistan has faced. After decades of corruption, disruptions from America and their puppets who are positioned in significant places, power politics and the country’s passive role in the ‘war on terror’, Pakistan appears to have reached despair over the state of its nation, as well as impasse over the anger of its people. Similarly, Khan’s own life, previously that of a playboy, and spoiled rich boy, soon evolves into anger at the state of his home country, his depiction in the media and the coverage on both his cricket playing and his marriage to a non-Pakistani woman – and most of all further strengthens his faith in the role of Islam. It is clear then, that Khan’s life and its ups and downs are followed in context with the changing scenarios in Pakistan’s political climate.
Yet Imran Khan does more than just present complaints and criticisms about the current handling of Pakistan by the government, and the intervention by several Western powers – instead, he proposes a solution in the form of his own political party, Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice). Highlighting the ideals of Pakistan’s founder, Jinnah and also praising the ideals of peaceful leader Gandhi, Imran Khan emphasises his own objectives as being similar to these esteemed leaders. In addition to this at the heart of these ideas are the ideals and beliefs of Khan’s favourite poet and philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who he believes could help reform and re-modernise the country. It is not a coincidence therefore, that Imran Khan has released this book so close to his political campaign which has kicked off, and his bid to be the country’s next President.
His philosophy (among others) revolves around “equal treatment for rich and poor is essential”, changing policies in appointing ministers and incorporating Islam’s morals into the ruling of the country, as well as withdrawing from the war on terror which has, according to Khan, only led to an alternative type of imprisonment for Pakistan under America’s terms, and has led to millions of unnecessary deaths. As Khan sums up, “Colonialism deprives you of your self-esteem and to get it back you have to fight to redress the balance.”
The book then, is divided into several layers. In the first layer, he describes his own personal life and upbringing, and the revelations which he is eventually led to. The second layer is an accurate, sharp account of recent Pakistani political history, and the issues and problems of contemporary politics which need to be addressed. Thirdly, Khan emphasises the role of Islam in history, how its qualities of tolerance, justice, moral values and education are ones which made Islam the leading civilisation for centuries. And lastly, it is a political manifesto for Khan’s objectives themselves, which details his struggles and his expectations for the future.
Yet in all of this, Khan never strays from the overall pervading message in his autobiography – which is that of hope and optimism. Imran Khan states his hopes that Pakistan will overturn its disgraced image, and redeem itself with its rich culture, Islamic morals and with the promising youths of Pakistan and their changing attitudes. Just as Khan himself has resolved his own personal issues, he shows how he hopes to use his own successes in the political sphere, and become as renowned a politician as was his illustrious career as a cricketer.
Pakistan: A Personal History appeals to me because of my own Pakistani heritage, and the fact that Pakistan has had such negative press in the past few years. While Imran Khan has idealistic ideals, my own belief is also that he is an honest, sincere and courageous politician which will not be much appreciated in the world of politics. Khan has certainly done a lot in the name of humane charity, and it is this compassion in him which appeals to the masses. Whether he will be able to carry this over in a potential presidential role, however, is a different story.
Whether you are interested in the cricketer Imran Khan or the politician Imran Khan or just in Pakistan’s current affairs and it’s rich history, this is certainly an enlightening read, and is an interesting insight into the mind of a philanthropist and politician.