Greetings from an ancient admirer, a long-time fan and a member of the species you call ‘liberal scum.’
Back in 1992 when you led the Pakistan cricket team to its first World Cup victory and made that narcissistic speech after the final, I used to work as a reporter and feature-writer for a local English weekly.
While most of the country’s press was wagging its collective finger at you for being selfish and arrogant, I defended you in a series of articles, in spite of the fact that (eventually) you were brave enough to admit that you made a mistake in taking all the credit for the victory as your team mates stood there, scratching their heads and maybe waving at you to remind you of their existence. ‘Hey, skipper, remember us!’
Being a fan, I was extremely excited when (in the mid-1990s) you decided to join politics and form your own party – even though I must admit, I was kind of apprehensive when I saw you hanging out with General (R) Hamid Gul.
I know that liberal scumbags criminally undermine General Gul’s role in wisely and prudently utilising the big American Dollar and the Saudi Riyal to deliver a crushing defeat to an atheistic superpower that was known to eat Muslim babies, but to fans like me, a dashing Khan just didn’t augur very well with a foaming, wrinkled Gul.
I know I might be sounding a tad disrespectful of a hero like Gul, but time and history can be a cruel combination because the only Gul that really matters now is Umar Gul and he too, has lost form.
But, alas, call it a mischievous itch, I did quite enjoy how you eventually ended up completely peeving Gul and leaving him in an existentialist lurch when you decided to marry a Caucasian British national whose father was a wealthy Jew.
If ever there was a starker physical expression of irony, it manifested itself across Gul’s angry face when he heard the news. I remember him telling journalists how disappointed he was. The protégé had slipped away.
I told my cynical friends that this act proved that Khan Saab was still the guy we cheered for across his cricketing career; the same guy we had thought was the most inspirational and intelligent thing ever to happen to the post of captaincy in Pakistan cricket.
Some of my friends called me a fool when one day in 1997 I decided to donate half of my monthly salary to the cancer hospital you had set up in Lahore.
They asked me, ‘have you heard him speak, lately?’ They didn’t like how you had started to sound: Like an angry, self-righteous reactionary, or, as one of my friends had put it, ‘like Hamid Gul on amphetamines!’
Humbug, I thought. What did that have to do with the cancer hospital, right? So off I went to the post office with my donation tucked inside an envelope, addressed to the administration of the hospital. I felt good.
Incidentally, that same evening I picked up a copy of The Friday Times and was thrilled to see a full-page article on you. I cringed, gritted my teeth, clenched my fists and tried to look away but just couldn’t ignore some of the things that you had said in the quotes that the article had used.
You went on and on about ‘servile brown sahibs’, ‘the drugged out, decadent and liberal youth culture of the West,’ the evilness and corruption of people like Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, the glory of faith and how you rediscovered it.
I tried to understand you as being like most urban middle-class Pakistani men who, after spending a good part of their lives in the most flamboyant and colourful manner, suddenly ‘rediscover the wonders of faith’ the moment they hit middle-age.
Fair enough, I thought, but what really bothered me was how instead of keeping such noble spiritual re-discoveries to themselves, they make it a point to exhibit it and flaunt it as a tool to judge other men.
Even then, I didn’t really get your angry, dismissive dig at the decadent, druggie youth culture of the West. Weren’t you (and still are) great friends with rock star Mick Jagger and actor Peter O’Toole – two of the most prominent purveyors of exactly the kind of culture you were decrying?
Did you tell them how decadent and disgusting their lifestyles were in the 1960s and 1970s? I’m sure you didn’t. But you had no qualms in telling us – the ones who live in a country where the only culture (since the late 1970s) that mushroomed was the one in which men were encouraged to use religion to meet cynical political ends and as a weapon against those they deemed to be ‘bad Muslims’ or downright infidels.
You being my idol, I wondered who you were addressing. I believed in the same God as you did and shared the same faith. Yes, I wasn’t (and still am not) quite into the ritualistic bit of our faith (as you now are), but does that make me a lesser Muslim than you?
And if you weren’t talking to people like me, then who? Ninety-eight per cent of Pakistanis are Muslim and ever since the 1980s, a majority of them love wearing their faith on their sleeves.
But then I understood. And you helped me understand. And it happened only recently when I read your last book, ‘Pakistan: A Personal History.’
I didn’t agree with a lot of things you mediated upon in the book, but (as always) I admired your honesty – especially when you confessed that you had very little knowledge of what went on in Pakistani politics and society during the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in the 1980s.
Well, as a busy cricketer you could escape the sight of public floggings, the midnight arrests, the myopia and the religious bigotry of the era, but most Pakistanis couldn’t.
Many Pakistanis readjusted their spiritual and political dispositions to fit in the new paradigm of acceptance, whereas those who didn’t, suffered all kinds of hardships.
It was fine to be naïve about such matters as a travelling sportsman (especially if one was as good as you were), but this naïveté (or the sudden, late realisation of certain disturbing moments of Pakistan’s history) can become a problem for a politician.
Now, here you are, leading Pakistan’s third largest political party and basking in the admiration of thousands of young Pakistanis as an ideological icon but with perhaps only a superficial knowledge of your own country’s history.
After reading your confessional book I just can’t help but wonder exactly how much do you really know about or comprehend the things you are so very vocal about: Faith, corruption, drone attacks, ‘Pushtun traditions,’ economy …
Just like most Pakistanis, your grip on history is weak because in our country, half-truths and myths are taught as historical fact.
After all, your ideological mentors, like General Gul and Jamat-i-Islami (JI) are the kind of folks who see the country and the world exactly through the kind of eyes that stare back at us every time we open the history books that are in circulation across Pakistan’s educational institutions.
Have your sons ever gone through such a book? I don’t think so. They’ll grow up in the UK as wise lads, with an education that is designed to help students understand the world in a rational, creative and practical manner; they’ll never experience an education that was solely constructed to promote a myopic ideology.
I was quite pleased when you talked about educational reforms before the 2013 election. I thought who else but the Mighty Khan can rid our text books of all that is designed to turn young minds into robotic, reactionary pulp.
But I should have known. Why would you? I mean, this pulp is what one comes across if he or she even tries to rationally interact with your most ardent supporters in the social media.
E=MC2 becomes E=@@$%$$#@&&^$#@!
Have you ever heard them speak? Many of them make reactionaries of yore sound like soft-spoken underlings, and one is not sure whether he is interacting with an urbane middle-class young person or a rabid incoherent bigot.
The last ruling party in KP, the ANP, had edited out certain verses on Jihad, believing that when taken out of context they would generate confusion and even make many young people misunderstand Islam.
But, instead of at least gazing at your navel about this argument, you dismissed ANP’s manoeuvre as something done by a diabolic batch of corrupt and evil secularists, and gave a free hand to your education ministry to put those verses right back in.
‘These verses would clear the confusion about Jihad in young people’s minds,’ said the ministry. I’ve gone through those verses over and over again and they are put there without any context. So tell me, how is this act of your government any different than the act of extremists cherry-picking the same verses (out of context) to justify their violence against the state, government and people of Pakistan?
Every Muslim Pakistani kid gets ample religious education at home, doesn’t he? And if you are so hell-bent on putting verses on Jihad in school text books, why not also put verses on tolerance and the pursuit of knowledge that run across the holy book are far simpler to comprehend by young minds than the more complex ones on Jihad?
I’ve never called you ‘Taleban Khan.’ And I don’t plan to now. I am sure you truly believe that the war against extremist groups can be won through talks and dialogue.
But, as you often say, it’s ‘not our war’, I have wondered on whose behalf would we be talking to the militants?
It’s America’s war, right? So would we be talking on the behalf of the scheming Americans? Have they asked us to? And why should we?
I’m kind of confused here. You say it’s not our war and yet it is Pakistani soldiers, cops and civilians dying in it, being killed by men who are also Pakistani.
You do have an answer, though, and you keep repeating it: Those Pakistanis who are killing other Pakistanis are the guys whose families were hit by US drone strikes. In anger and desperation they have picked up arms.
Okay, but against whom have these victims of American brutality picked up arms?
Against unarmed people praying in mosques, shrines and churches? Against women and children in markets? Against the Pakistan army and police? Against teenaged school girls?
Oh, of course, this is so because we as a nation are fighting America’s war. Let’s say that we were, but over the years, hasn’t it become squarely our own war?
Over 50,000 Pakistanis killed since 2002. They’d have to be living in Guatemala for anyone to say that this doesn’t make it Pakistan’s war.
However, you are right to ask that if the US is willing to hold talks with extremists in Afghanistan, why the Pakistanis shouldn’t be allowed to do the same with those haunting the mountains, caves and cities of Pakistan.
But whereas, the conniving Americans are doing so to negotiate a safe exit for its occupying forces in Afghanistan, what would we be negotiating for?
Are we an occupying force? Is our military an occupying force in the north-west of Pakistan? Should we negotiate its safe exit first from KP so the extremists are free to do whatever they like, first in the KP, then in the rest of Pakistan?
Will we be negotiating that ‘bad Muslims’ be allowed to at least settle on the shorelines of Gawadar and Karachi? Or should we grow gills and find an underwater city of infidels in the Arabian Sea?
I am all for peace talks, Khan Saab. We are all for peace. Who in his or her right mind wouldn’t be?
But so far it’s just been one-way traffic. The state and government alone has been talking about peace. And what are they getting in return?
Suicide bombings on men, women and children. IED explosions against senior military officers and soldiers.
Obviously, as you pointed out, these acts are the doing of those who want to derail the peace talks. May we know who these saboteurs are?
Americans, Indians, Afghans, or maybe the ANP? Kindly do inform confused Pakistanis like me.
You did say that ANP was politicising issues like suicide blasts. Well, I guess, they shouldn’t, but you most certainly can on issues like drone strikes, right?
After all, you are the mighty Khan who has always taken the higher moral ground. That’s exactly why Western press spews fact after fact on corrupt hyenas like Zardari and Sharif and mobsters like Altaf Hussain, but you only make news when you attend a charity ball by a British royal to save endangered elephants.
Oh, how we wish the 81 Christians who were slaughtered by extremists in a church in Peshawar last Sunday were elephants as well.
They’re most certainly an endangered species, just like sanity in this country.
So, can you ask Prince Charles to hold a charity ball for this as well?
Your fan (as opposed to a foulmouthed fanatic),