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PAK | Feb 4, 2024

Al Edwards | The caging of Pakistan’s greatest tiger, Imran Khan

Al Edwards

Al Edwards / Our Today

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Security officers escort Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, as he appeared in Islamabad High Court, Islamabad, Pakistan May 12, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro/File)

It is clear that those who control political power in Pakistan want to see the back of Imran Khan and ensure he can never return.

The former test cricketer and Pakistan’s most decorated captain has been thrown in jail, his sentences totally 34 years to be served concurrently.

Yesterday (February 3), it was announced that both he and his wife Bushra Bibi, aged 49, will serve a seven-year prison year sentence for breaching Pakistani marital laws which stipulate that a woman must wait three months before marrying again. She was divorced in November 2017 before marrying Imran Khan in January 2018.

This was Imran Khan’s third marriage after he married Jemima Khan, then Reham Khan.

After a distinguished career in the cricketing arena, Imran Khan now 71, founded a cancer hospital in Lahore dedicated to his late mother. It was a significant achievement and he did her proud.

He then entered the perilous waters of Pakistani politics vowing to bring his country into the modern age, eradicating poverty. The assasination of his Oxford University contemporary, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto didn’t seem to put him off. He was single minded in his vision and mission. He would lead a new revitalised Pakistan and pull it out of its debt trap.

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, gestures as he speaks to the members of the media at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan May 18, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohsin Raza/File)

He formed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and took on the country’s political giants. The young educated classes got behind him.The army endorsed him and backed him. He was riding high. In 2018 he attained his long-standing goal becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Imran Khan could have attained heights in any field. Educated, charming, intelligent, worldly he was marked for success.

It is annoying and does the man a disservice to constantly read for decades that he was a playboy and a great lover of beautiful women-as if that is his crowning achievement. Yes back in the day he was young, handsome, viral and enjoyed himself but he was also an Oxford graduate, from the middle-class who is still recognised as one of the greatest all-rounders of all time. Imran Khan could have gone into media, the diplomatic service, administration, headed a corporation instead he chose to serve his country entering the murky world of politics. Did his countrymen appreciate his efforts?

As he sits in a jail, he must be wondering was this a mistake? Is this where it all ends for him. There are those who want to keep him jailed. There will be no Elba for him. He cannot be permitted to return and cause problems. He no longer enjoys the favour of the army and it looks likely that Nawaz Sharif will return from exile as Prime Minister-unless Imran Khan can summon the unfathomable.

Khan is a man of resilience and indomitable will and spirit.

“Never give up, no matter how hard life gets, no matter how much pain you feel. Pain will eventually subside, nothing remains forever, so keep going and don’t give up,” he once said. That about sums up the man.

Under Imran Khan’s leadership, Pakistan endured a torrid time. Decrepit infrastructure, rampant inflation, high debt, having to beg the IMF, electricity shortages. Instead of coming up with solutions to solve these matters, Imran Khan was preoccupied fighting off his political enemies and making a foe of the United States. ThIs has cost him dearly.

It’s a bitter bill for a man to swallow in the evening of his years. The dashing tiger now caged, defanged, reduced.

It is also a salutary lesson for those who have aspirations to radically transform Pakistan. If one is not aligned with the army, one is likely to share the same fate as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, his daughter Benazir Bhutto and Imran Khan who may very well die in a jail cell. For decades now, no Pakistani Prime Minister has won a second term in office.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks with Reuters during an interview, in Lahore, Pakistan March 17, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro/File)

Khan has being convicted four times since he was kicked out of power in 2022, with three of those coming last week. A close eye will be kept on him as he has plenty of time to reflect in an inauspicious, dreary prison cell with his jailers mocking him. How the mighty have fallen.

“It is not defeat that destroys you, it is being demoralised by defeat that destroys you,” Imran Khan is quoted as saying. He will have plenty of time to put that to the test.


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