Dawn News

Imran Khan says he's not anti-West

Imran Khan waves to the crowd during a public meeting in Karachi. — Photo by AFP

WASHINGTON: Imran Khan, the cricket star turned politician who is gaining support in Pakistan, on Friday rebutted charges he is anti-West and said his vision for an Islamic society looked like Scandinavia.

Khan, who has drawn hundreds of thousands of followers in recent months after years in the political wilderness, reiterated his staunch criticism of the US campaign against religious extremists as he addressed a forum in Washington.

But he rejected perceptions that his views are anti-Western. Khan, an Oxford graduate who was formerly married to writer Jemima Khan, said he was one of the few Pakistani politicians to have spent substantial time in the West.

“To be anti-Western makes absolutely no sense at all. The West is geography. How can you be anti-geography?” Khan told the Atlantic Council, a think-tank, via Internet video provider Skype.

“And to be anti-American...how can you be anti-a whole country, where there are so many different views?” he said.

“I have always been anti-the American war on terror. I have always thought that this was an insane war,” Khan said.

A decade after Pakistan reluctantly supported the US-led campaign against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Khan said that his country was far more radicalised and that billions of dollars had been wasted.

“I have never understood what they were trying to achieve. I still don't know what is victory in the war on terror,” Khan said.

Pakistani forces in 2009 launched an offensive in South Waziristan. The United States regularly carries out deadly drone strikes in areas bordering Afghanistan and has feared that Pakistan maintains ties to some militants.

“In my opinion, the only solution is to have dialogue, a political solution, the same as is the case across the border” in Afghanistan, Khan said.

But Khan — whom former military ruler Pervez Musharraf once called a “Taliban without the beard” — said that he had to “demystify” to Western audiences his idea of an Islamic society.

“If you ask me today what is closest to that ideal, I would say the Scandinavian countries,” Khan said, praising them for their “humane society, where there is rule of law, a society that looks after its weak, its handicapped”.

Such a society is the opposite of Pakistan “where literally the poor people are subsidising the rich, while all the jails are full of poor people.”

Khan, who for years enjoyed little support despite his sporting stardom, has recently drawn crowds of more than 100,000 people at rallies in which he promised a “good tsunami” against injustice and corruption.

Khan's popularity comes as Pakistan wades through a slew of problems including attacks, power and gas shortages, a feeble economy, flood damage, friction between civilian and military leaders and tensions with Washington.

Some allege that Khan is being quietly nurtured by Pakistan's military, which has long been the nation's chief arbiter of power and whose poor ties with the civilian leadership have recently spilled into the open.

Khan has denied such charges. In the Washington appearance, he insisted that his Movement for Justice Party enjoyed across-the-board support and would triumph in free elections.

Khan also harshly criticised Musharraf, who has vowed to return to Pakistan this month to launch a political comeback. Khan said Musharraf faced threats from forces stretching from restive Balochistan to the tribal belt.

“No longer being the president and having the protection which he has, I would not be the insurance company to give him life insurance,” Khan said.

Comments (28) Closed

Jan 14, 2012 11:15am
Everyone who has some political thinking can easily understand that IK is not anti-west. His visit to USA state department was not to enjoy American cuisine, but to take plan for next few months. IK is a new player USA is relying upon, totally helped and backed by military. Yet another trachery to nation is on the way!
Asif Ali
Jan 14, 2012 11:49am
He knows what he doing and his clear vision is enough to steer the country in the right direction. He is not pro-west neither pro-east. He is pro-Pakistan and that matter most. He has lived a respectable life and knows how to bring respect to the country.
Tahir Saeed
Jan 14, 2012 02:03pm
I think who is good for pakistan, pakistani people want to see those people in power and at the moment except Imran Khan, every one is tested now and they all failed. That,s why I like to give Imran Khan full support and I like to encourage all Pakistani, please value your VOTE, give to that person which you have faith and believe that who is good for OUR PAKISTAN and for our people. Tahir Saeed, Sydney, Australia
Jan 14, 2012 05:41pm
Has anyone asked Imran Khan as to what his vision is for Pakistan and how is he going to attain it.Who are the politicians that will help him to run the country?From what I read most are defectors from other parties where their influence ran out.He needs technocrats and people who are in touch with the heartland,with knowledge of state affairs and most of all honest in their dealings.The most important.How is he going to deal with the racial bigots that are giving your country a bad name.
Mohammad Akram
Jan 14, 2012 05:47pm
There is no doubt Imran Khan is talking sense and his views and policies he is going to chalk out will benefit the poor more than rich who are enjoying at the cost of poor people at the moment. He will make sure that Rich are taxed and funds utilized for the betterment of the society as a whole. He looks a winner in the next elections. Good luck Imran Khan.
faisal suleman
Jan 14, 2012 07:08pm
The current state of pakistan really required leaders like khan otherwise their will be no united pakistan.i think people of pakistan got last chance to vote the right person in to and save that country.
Jan 14, 2012 07:14pm
The scandinavian countries are secular to the core. How can he establish an 'Islamic welfare society' with scandinavian values? I watched his interview in an indian news channel (cnn ibn if i remember it right) . The interviewer asked him about his promise of imposing sharia laws and Imran khan started ranting about the history of imposition of sharia laws under arab khalifas and how justice was dispensed to non muslims as well. What he failed to explain was how the same laws would suit modern times. The man is high on rhetoric and is sure to disappoint if he comes to power. What disappoints me is the fact that very few pakistanis in these forums question his tall promises.
Agha Ata
Jan 14, 2012 08:01pm
A few years ago, I gave my comments about Iran in BBC, and I said, why doesn’t Iran try to be like any Scandinavian country, prosperous and happy rather than wishing to be a nuclear power and a terror for its neighbors. The truth is that being like a Scandinavian country is a beautiful thing to wish for. That also shows the beauty of Pakistan that Imran Khan has in his mind. Wish you good luck Imran!
Sulaiman Hasan
Jan 14, 2012 08:35pm
Imran Khan is a man who has spent his life in the pursuit of excellence. We don't know what the future holds in store for him but if he can continue his past pattern into the political         arena, Pakistan and the region will be better for it. Our prayers and support are with him.
Jan 14, 2012 08:40pm
I respect Imran Khan a great deal for his honesty and nationalism. I wish him to take the country to the nth level. He certainly has the capability to do that. However, I dread from our own people(the enemy from within). Over the years, we have become so dishonest and self centered that we our self may fail Imran Khan. If he is failed, our "last hope", we will continue to churn desperately under the wheels of democracy for ever. The time is now Pakistan to change for good.
Jan 14, 2012 09:10pm
It is indeed his sincerity and honesty that every time Imran speaks, he makes sense to me. I strongly believe if given a chance (AND TIME) he can really do wonders for Pakistan. However at the same time, lets not forget the way elections are manipulated in our country. Besides, our problems are so huge now, things wont change overnight. Still, lets hope for the best.
Jan 14, 2012 09:50pm
The people in power at present are corrupt, let someone new with a vision help this country what is wrong with change, vote him in see what he can do will he be able to keep all the promises he has been making only time can tell, but it will take a very long time to sort out the problems of Pakistan it has been a free for all for a very long time its time to stop the rot, it is a very beautiful country and the people who are in charge only care about money and how much they can ruin this country if Mohammed Ali Jinnah was alive today he would be saddened at the state of Pakistan is in, that was not his vision, you all need to stand up and be counted show your support to Imran Khan and see what he can do.
Jan 14, 2012 10:40pm
It is not that difficult to find truth. These politicians are not suppose to cheat people for their own benefits. I see truth in Imran and I wish him best of luck as I love Pakistan.
Usman Ahmad USA
Jan 14, 2012 10:53pm
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. WHOULD YOU? PAKISTAN ZINDABAD
Common man
Jan 14, 2012 11:51pm
As a cricketer he was both idolized and criticized for his westernized style. To call him anti-western would be a stretch. He is clear that he opposes the west's current policy towards muslims. I don't think he is pro-taliban but someone who resents west's bundling of all muslims as terrorists and extremists. A society based on the broad principles of Islam, rather than Shariah law, would look very similar to the western society. His biggest problem in politics is that he does not represent any group's vested interest but that of the general masses.
A Khan
Jan 15, 2012 01:29am
Good luck Imran, we are with you.
Jan 15, 2012 03:45am
Agree with IK's position. If talking against war is being Anti-American, then most of the liberals within America including Ron Paul (more of a libertarian) would be anti-American. It is better for all the countries directly or indirectly involved in this conflict to settle issues politically.
Jan 15, 2012 05:22am
Inshallah yahan roti sasti hoge aur mahangi ho gee jaan. 1 din aye gaa aisa hoga Pakistan. Main bhee dekhoon gaa tum bhee dekho gaay...
Jan 15, 2012 05:33am
he is the best honest and visionary I will compare him with Ron Paul he has been consistent in his message and proven correct
Bhavesh Nayak
Jan 15, 2012 07:57am
Buddy Imran...anti west means not against geography, it means you are against a liberal, free thinking, tolerant open society. This is what happens when you elect movie stars / sports stars / generals...no idea what a country and society stands for...what a shame!
Jan 15, 2012 09:47am
Imran khan is the best leader pakistan can have we should support him and vote for him
A. Hasan
Jan 15, 2012 01:45pm
Imran Khan claims to be an admirer of Allama Iqbal. But Allama Iqbal was nowhere to be found on stage banner in Karachi on December 25. Imran Khan why did you exclude him from your stage banner in Karachi? Why?
Jan 15, 2012 09:36pm
We have no other choice than to give Imran Khan a chance. He is honest and hold human feelings. Even if he doesn't deliver he will still be much better than the current lot of politicians in and out of Government. But I have full trust in Imran Khan that he will do his maximum to inshallah bring Pakistan out of the current political, economical mess. He will inshallah be capable of getting the honour back to the country which it has currently lost in the outside world. May Allah give Imran Khan strength and wisdom to do all what a common man hopes from him in Pakistan. All the best to you Imran Khan.
Jan 16, 2012 01:25pm
I will vote for Imran in front of Nawaz, Zardaris, Altaf bhais or Jamaats a thousand times. If people still think we have a better choice than him in our current political scene, then please enlighten us.
Jan 16, 2012 01:56pm
Imran Khan we are with you,quaid azam made Pakistan and you have to save Pakistan.
Jan 16, 2012 05:47pm
Being an admirer of Scandinavian society, I think he should also have displayed Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic maps on stage, if not the pictures of their leaders. He should also display pictures of Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Saeed Anwar, etc. being some of the cricketers he admired. Not to forget his family members. How can you be so ignorant Imran? Why did you not display pictures of all these people that you admire in a rally where you were telling what you would do for the PEOPLE of Pakistan in FUTURE, if elected?
Jan 16, 2012 07:22pm
Hope for good. but im seems to be another trachery to nation of pakistan. may ALLAH save our land.n give us good n honest governance.ameen
Jan 17, 2012 04:28am
All the best Imran Khan. I'm a fan of Parvez Mushraff and Next you. Truely you are doing a lot to your country. The rest are only looting Pakistan and are ready to do anything just to keep a bank balance Indian