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PTI chief Imran Khan. — File photo

It was the early sixties, and Ayaz Sadiq and Imran Khan were nearly ten years old. Both were playing hockey at Atchison school Lahore one day, as sports was mandatory for the students.

Sadiq, who has been elected as Speaker National Assembly, beat Khan on Lahore's NA-122 in the May 11 general elections.

“I was an average student, while Imran was the brighter one,” recalls Sadiq, “but we both shared a similar passion in sports.” he added. “Imran was slightly better than me in cricket though,” smiled Sadiq.

Sadiq also remembers his other school friends who have now turned into prominent politicians like Faisal Saleh Hayat and Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan. But it was that one hockey match with Imran which Ayaz says he will never forget.

“Imran and I were playing hockey and he was standing behind me which I didn’t notice. When I tried hitting the ball, I accidentally hit Imran with the hockey stick on his face, and he started bleeding.”

Sadiq said that he was horrified, they were young and even minor injuries meant a big deal back then.

Nearly five decades after that incident, Ayaz Sadiq and Imran Khan contested elections against each other in Lahore, the second time in a decade.

In 2002, Sadiq, a candidate for PML-N beat Imran Khan in Lahore from NA-122 by a hefty margin.

With the Sharifs in exile and Musharraf in power, it was a big victory, claims Sadiq.

“People called me a fool for contesting elections on a PML-N ticket. 2002 was a difficult election for me because then my leaders (Sharifs) weren’t here and people thought they weren’t coming back. Imran was close to Musharraf. Right after the referendum, I feared Musharraf would help Imran win.”

Before becoming political rivals, the two school friends were together in Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) in the late 90s, and contested elections together, with Imran contesting for the National Assembly while Sadiq for the provincial assembly seats from the same constituency, but both lost to PML-N.

Sadiq eventually left PTI citing lack of understanding with Imran.

“After we lost the elections, I sent Imran a list of issues PTI faced. I expected that Imran would call or come to meet me as a friend to discuss the issues, but he never responded.”

Sadiq left the PTI in 1998, but in good words “I wrote that I was quitting PTI, but we remained friends.”

It was perhaps politics that distanced the two friends. Sadiq felt politics changed Imran’s personality.

“Imran was shy during his school days, didn’t speak much to people. He was a loner, he wasn’t naughty like us,” said Sadiq. “I never thought he would come into politics because he was never that sort, and even now I don’t think he has the temperament to be a politician,” he added.

Sadiq finds Imran’s aggressive speeches in political rallies quite unlike the Imran he knew before politics.

In his election campaign, Imran has not stopped short when it comes to criticism against the Sharif brothers, who seem to be the main targets in his speeches. Sadiq feels Imran’s aggressive speeches will hurt his reputation in the longer run.

“I think I have the right as a friend to tell Imran not to use aggressive language against the Sharifs or anyone, because it might hurt people's feelings.”

Despite Imran’s anti-Sharif speeches, Sadiq refuses to ignore the mutual respect he believes exists between the two rival candidates.

“He is no leader for me…he is the same Imran as he was for me in school. I cannot disassociate with someone I have known since 1960. I nevertheless never expected this from Imran.”

This year, Sadiq faced Imran in the same constituency — NA-122. He had earlier claimed that he was in a stronger position to defend his title with the Sharifs back in the country and Musharraf far from interfering and was subsequently proved to be true.

Although, prior to the elections, things looked different in the PTI camp too. Imran who had gained more popularity in recent months was believed by political analysts to give PML-N a run for its money.

Days before the election, Sadiq said he knew that Imran was contesting from the same constituency because he hadn’t forgotten the hockey match which injured him.

"He is contesting against me in elections to take revenge” a laughing Sadiq told in April.

— Updated on June 03, 2013