Dil sey jo baat nikaltee hai asar rakhtee hai/par nahin taqatey parvaaz magar rakhtee hai.- Allama Iqbal
(The whisper in your heart has strength/It may not have wings but it has the power to fly.)
When I was a teenager I played club cricket at Lahore gymkhana with Imran Khan.
Although my parents wanted me to just focus on my studies to become a doctor at King Edward Medical College, Imran Khan, with a degree in political science from Oxford University, showed young Pakistanis like myself that if you possessed the Junoon you could do anything in life.
In 1985, I had the privilege to go on a cricket tour to Bangladesh under his captaincy. I witnessed thousands of enthusiastic Bangladeshis flocking to Dacca airport to catch a glimpse of IK. Despite the painful memories & trauma of the 1971 civil war, I saw that Bangladesh still loved Imran Khan.
On & off the cricket field, Khan sahib’s rockstar status, his patriotism, dedication to hard work, focus on excellence & merit motivated Pakistani youth like myself to follow our hearts & reach for the stars. Throughout my own career in arts & culture, Khan sahib has always been a voice of reason & guidance. My music & writing became a platform for my social & political activism as a result of Khan’s struggle against the forces of status quo.
Over the past 30 years as an artist, social entrepreneur & a UN Goodwill Ambassador I’ve been fortunate to work in diverse disciplines like music, medicine, film, international relations, philanthropy & human rights.
For the past four years, as a schoolfellow & goodwill ambassador, I’ve been focused on working to eradicate Polio from Pakistan. In 2014, we were struggling against violence & militancy. Over one hundred of our Polio health workers, mostly women & security personnel have been shot dead.
From a dangerous high of 306 cases, we are now down to 8 cases & close to reaching Polio zero to create history for Pakistan.
Now, 22 years after Khan joined politics, he has his first chance to lead the nation. His ‘formula’ for success has remain unchanged — he lives, breathes & dreams his Aitchison college motto — ‘Perseverance commands success.’
PTI’s 2018 triumph over arch rivals, the PML-N & the PPP, reflects one man’s two decade long struggle to break the strangle hold of dynastic party leadership in Pakistan. However, Khan sahib’s vision , idealism & tenacity to take on a corrupt & entrenched status quo hasn’t been a bed of roses nor a pleasure cruise. Honest disagreement is a sign of progress.
Although I have supported Imran Khan as a friend & as a public figure but I have never been a member of PTI. Regarding my critique on PTI taking electables who belonged to status quo parties, Khan sahib assured me that all PTI members would have to face rigorous accountability. Earlier this year, he backed up his rhetoric with serious action. He expelled 20 PTI members on charges of selling their senate votes. It sent a strong signal across the board & it took great courage to do this so close to the 2018 elections. Khan sahib’s election campaign trail reflected the hopes & dreams of millions. I’m fortunate to have witnessed the Junoon at his ‘jalsas’ across Pakistan.
The recently concluded Election campaign has been fiercely contested & many accusations by the opposition parties have surfaced. However, Independent observers from the EU visiting Pakistan have reported that the 2018 Pakistan election have been far more free & fair than the 2013 electoral exercise. This election has had the highest voter turnout despite the violence & terrorism across the country. More women & youth came out to vote than ever before & Pakistani media’s 24/7 coverage of the various political campaigns were the key factors in helping millions to vote for hope & change.
Khan sahib in his acceptance speech has already said that as PM he will order a thorough, transparent & complete investigation into election rigging charges by the opposition.
As far as cross border relations is concerned, many Indians that I know are curious about Imran Khan the politician & new leader of 208 million Pakistanis.
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Khan sb is perhaps the most well known Pakistani across India. From Bollywood celebrities to Indian cricketing legends & across the world of business, philanthropy & politics, he has shown himself to be a man of his word. During his acceptance speech on Thursday, he pledged to be a partner for peace, trade & good neighbourly relations with India. Despite the rancour, violence & mistrust of the past. This is perhaps the best time for Pakistan & India to engage in a constructive dialogue. Imran Khan is a change-agent in Pakistani politics. I feel great hope & optimism about his leadership of Naya Pakistan.
The writer founded the rock band Junoon and is author of the book, Rock & Roll Jihad. He tweets at sufisal