Of my prediction and Imran’s conviction

By Usman Sherazi - August 18, 2018

It was a warm July afternoon in 1992 when I was invited to a get together at Manchester’s Shabab Restaurant along with some members of the recently crowned world champion Pakistan cricket team which was in the middle of one of its most memorable, eventful and successful England tours to date.

The third Test was in progress at The Old Trafford and on its opening day, dear friend and swashbuckling opener Aamir Sohail had become the first batsman in 17 years after Sir Viv. Richards to score a double hundred on a single day in Test cricket.

The event, probably on the rest day of the match, was in honour of Pakistan’s greatest captain Imran Khan, who had opted out of the tour for personal reasons after winning the World Cup.

Having known Imran Khan closely for 3-4 years as a sports journalist back then, I was already frank and bold enough to muster the courage to move to his table soon after the formalities were over, in order to have a general conversation about his future plans as well as the ongoing series.

What followed next has become glued to my mind ever since and many of those who have known me closely have heard this story more than once over the years.

During that informal chat and general discussion, the conversation obviously led to his dream project of building the biggest cancer treatment hospital in Asia in the fond memory of his mother.

Sitting right next to him on a round table engrossed in a deep conversation I told him I wanted to share my personal observation about him. Go on, he said. “Skipper, (as we all used to call him unlike Captain or ‘Kaptaan’ he’s usually referred to these days), I don’t know exactly when, but I somehow see you ending up in politics in the coming few years”, I told him right afterwards.

Seemingly unsure, he smiled and responded to me in these words in Urdu: “Nahi yaar, barra gandd hai politics mein, mein kahan parron ga iss gandd mein” (No buddy, there’s too much trash in politics, so I don’t think I can ever get into it) was his reply.

“That part I don’t know, but I am sharing this thought as I am noticing a transformation in you ever since you have started this hospital project”, was my response to him.

The reason behind my conviction was simple. From an iconic superstar of legendary proportions, Imran Khan was arrogant and picky at the peak of his cricketing days. He was a habitual offender in slapping fans who dared cross a line or intruded upon his personal space or territory.

That arrogance was slowly being replaced by humbleness and an unusual grace, unforeseen before as he set out to raise funds for the hospital across the breadth of Pakistan. I think the sheer nature of the daunting task and the overwhelming love and support he received first hand from the poorest of his supporters was having an amazing impact on him. I had noticed that change and had a strange feeling that this man may have another role for the country. I’d be lying if I suggested if I had even the slightest idea that one day he would become the prime minister at that moment.

Call it another coincidence that almost four years down the road, I was sitting in the second row of a small hall at Lahore’s Faletti’s Hotel, in April 1996 when Imran Khan launched his political party Pakistan Tehreek–e-Insaaf (PTI), that finally swept into power last month.

After the press conference was over, I went to congratulate him, shook hands, gave him a hug and whispered in his ear: “Skipper, do you remember what I told you at Manchester’s Shabab Restaurant in 1992”. A big smile was what I got in return, I recall.

Twenty-two years down the road, it is a remarkable moment for Imran, and hopefully for Pakistan, as he takes oath as the Prime Minister of the country, against all odds after seemingly endless, bitter struggle against the status quo, injustice and corruption.

 

His elevation to the highest office gives me hope like millions of compatriots that Pakistan could embark on a journey of deservedly becoming a far greater country than what it is today.  It gives me hope that one day justice would prevail in the society and the masses would get the same chance at life that is usually meant for the haves or the elite.

Imran Khan is a hard-core fighter. He is someone programmed to be relentlessly consistent and does not give up under any circumstances. Quitting in the wake of adversity is simply not in his genes. This has been evident throughout his illustrious sporting and political careers. Every time his critics wrote him off, he came right back with vengeance and achieved the unthinkable. A top-class performer, this man believes nothing is impossible in life.

While putting these thoughts together, I can recall many more incidents to shed light on the character of this extra ordinary man, who is indeed a rare breed from many aspects, but would do it separately on a different occasion.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, before earning this ultimate honour, you have already seen and enjoyed everything people usually dream of in life. It has taken you an enormous struggle spread over two decades to get to this position. No one denies your sincerity, but the fact remains that like all human beings you have been critically wrong in your judgment several times and committed blunders in your political career. It is now time for you to leave the petty issues behind and try to become a statesman from an opposition leader. Promote healing in the society please, so that the country and the government could focus on other pressing challenges.
This is your moment to do something truly amazing and change the direction of the country.

Hope is what keeps us all going. Here’s hoping God gives you the strength and wisdom to lead Pakistan to greatness.

Pakistan Zindabad!!

By Usman Sherazi

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