Every once in a while, Imran Khan, ever the darling of the British press, is profiled by the latter. Every time that happens, the piece is much discussed here in Pakistan. This interest in how the international press has covered something is not specific to Imran Khan, though. Profiles of Nawaz Sharif or his daughter are also taken apart and examined. All this despite the fact that the Pakistani audience, with its constant diet of the local news media, already knows more about the subject matter than whatever the article would put forth.
The interest is not about some sort of colonial hangover and putting more value on western analysis because Indian, Bangladeshi or Japanese analyses on local issues would be consumed as voraciously. The reason is perhaps the fact that articles written for a foreign readership can’t afford too much of what the Americans call “inside baseball.” They have to cut to the quick for their foreign audience. One still remembers The Economist having covered the results of the 2008 elections in Pakistan succinctly. While the local media was giving a far more informed, and nuanced, analysis of party performances, the British magazine had, in a line, explained the party positions well by saying that the PML(N) “came a surprisingly close second.” That the League still had much fuel in the tank, despite jettisoning any and all military support turned out to be the primary reality that governs Pakistani politics till this day.
The Times interview of Imran Khan doesn’t carry anything by way of succinct sums-it-all-up lines. But it does make the fellow come across as a self-obsessed, intellectually limited, ideologically confused man. Well, in my defence, writer Ben Judea might say…
The comparison to Donald Trump, once deemed simplistic when Pervez Hoodbhoy made it in a column of his, isn’t completely off the mark. Imran hates US President Donald Trump, but it is “hard not to compare the two.” Judea says, “Khan, like Trump, emerged from the moneyed elite, riding high on a personality cult, purporting to be the voice of every forgotten man, railing against effete liberals and the corruption and nepotism of the political class. And just like Trump, this ageing, hair-obsessed star is accused of sexual harassment.”
The article tackles another contradiction of Khan’s. In his diatribe against the “bloodthirsty liberals”, he points out how out of touch these elite are and how they would be “lost in our villages.”
These are rich words, coming from a man not used to the simple life himself; don’t let the photos of him eating daal make you think otherwise. When the writer asked him about his “Bond villain” palace in Islamabad, while Khan was having sushi at a Karachi hotel, he replied, “I’m probably the most known Pakistani ever in history.”
That, more than the obsession with his hair, is Trump-esque.
The lack of intellectual depth is also something that is made apparent, more or less, during the course of the article.
For candour that PTI leader Asad Umar will most certainly get in trouble for, it was revealed that the PTI chief was not a “strategy guy.”
The writer also noted how Imran Khan keeps promising to “bring the China model to Pakistan” to fight poverty but “in the car he is unable to explain to me what this means beyond: We have a lot to learn from what they did with industry.”
Perhaps all that was missing was explaining how he will give Pakistanis the best deal and that he knew the best words