Much has already been written and spoken about this, including the concern that just like the Jamat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) and to a certain extent, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Khan too tried to connect the horrid shooting of a 14-year-old school girl by remorseless Islamists to the issue of US drone strikes in Pakistan.
I’m not going to go into the details about this. Men like Geo’s leading anchor, Hamid Mir, and insightful political commentators like Najam Sethi and Dr. Farrukh Saleem have already poked gaping holes into what Khan had to say in his defense.
Instead, I’m going to take another, much lighter, route. And I’ll do so because I think I know why in spite of facing some cutting but constructive and largely accurate criticism that Khan received at the hands of political and intellectual sleuths like Sethi and Saleem, he is most likely to hold on to his narrative that puts all the blame on US drone strikes and the US presence in Afghanistan for the intense wave of Islamist violence that has been sweeping the country for the past many years.
I do not agree with him for reasons, again, already highlighted and brilliantly articulated by Sethi and Saleem.
And it’s a shame, really, that the more Khan tries to sound different from old, right-wing war horses such as the PML-N and JI, the more he sounds almost exactly like them, especially when it comes to things like Islamist terrorism and the role of the Pakistan’s armed forces and the Americans in what is not only Pakistan, Afghanistan or the United States’ war against Islamist violence, but the whole world’s.
Nevertheless, back to why I believe I know how Khan behaves the way he does. I haven’t met him in person ever, but I’ve seen him play for the Pakistan cricket team on numerous occasions at Karachi’s National Stadium ever since I was just a young school kid in the mid-1970s.
Being a huge cricket fan, Khan, along with the wily Javed Miandad and the flamboyant Wasim Raja, were my favorites. But Khan was right at the top.
In fact, for us college student activists in Karachi who were struggling against and facing the brutalities of the Ziaul Haq dictatorship, it was people like Benazir Bhutto and Imran Khan who were our idols.
So, it was only natural, at least for young men like me, to not only follow every move made by the late BB, but by Khan as well.
He was a unique cricketing personality. Inspired by the aggressively intelligent ways of former Australian cricket captain, Ian Chappell, Khan coupled his professionally honed cricketing skills with mental tactics that were unprecedented in the topsy-turvy world of Pakistan cricket.
This ability of his largely came forth when he was made the captain of the country’s cricket team in 1982. And what he developed then as a cricket captain has remained with him to this day.
So it is in this context I will try to explain why I believe I know he will be slow or unwilling to change his mind on his understanding of the issue of terrorism in Pakistan even in the face of some harsh but entirely intelligent and well-informed criticism he has faced from some of the finest political commentators at home and abroad.
Throughout his long tenure as Pakistan’s cricket captain, Khan was a man with a sharp cricketing mind. But at the same time he was also prone to overtly trust his ‘gut feeling’ as well. This fattened his cricketing disposition with a unique mixture of two opposites: The mind and the gut.
Such a mixture worked rather well for him, helping him to rise to become one of Pakistan’s finest and most respected cricket captains.
However, this meeting of mind and gut made him hold on to it so hard and so self-assuredly, that it also began to make him behave in a rather dictatorial and, at times, in an arrogant manner.
So much so that when decisions taken or judgments made by him with the above-mentioned disposition backfired or flopped, he continued overriding the criticism he faced for taking these decisions and kept insisting on repeating them.
And he is still doing this. So I would like to address him by putting in front of him something from his cricketing past that, to me, proves, why this attitude of his can work wonders, but when it flounders, it can spell a monumental disaster.
So here goes. In 1982 when he was made the captain of the Pakistan cricket team, his first assignment was to lead the team on a difficult tour of England, that had only a year before devastated a strong Australian side.
Practicing with the selected 16-member squad at Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium, Khan bumped into an unassuming and poorly dressed man who was there to see the players doing their thing at the nets.
That man was Abdul Qadir. Qadir had played a couple of Tests as a leg-break bowler for Pakistan between 1977 and 1979 but had then been unceremoniously dropped and almost totally forgotten about.
As Khan himself writes in his 1994 book, ‘An All Round View’, he did not even recognise Qadir – until he saw him bowl a few deliveries in the nets that day.
Right away Khan approached him, asking him what he was up to.