ISLAMABAD - The 22-year-long political struggle has finally borne fruit and now Imran Khan, the chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), is the 22nd prime minister-elect of Pakistan.
The journey of cricketer-turn-politician Imran from the cricket stadium to the Prime Minister’s House is full of many surprises, successes, failures and controversies. But there is some hope at the end of the day as the risky and bumpy road to politics adopted by a cricket star in 1996 by establishing his own party - PTI, has led him to the victory stand.
The imprisoned ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif had not even thought that an all-rounder in cricket whom he had once offered to join his political party would become a major cause of his political and personal misfortunes. Khan who was once considered arrogant, quiet and shy in his youth became a major proponent of an anti-corruption against Mr Sharif that ultimately ended with his landing in jail. And the old friends of Imran Khan might have been regretting while peeping into the history that they had been laughing at him when he used to talk about becoming prime minister of the county.
The target is achieved but the struggle is not over now. Khan has now chosen another perilous position of the prime minister — the highest seat of the executive branch on which many prime ministers in the past could not sustain, one had to go to the gallows, some went to the jail and others were sent home without completing their term. The voters of PTI are eyeing towards Imran Khan whose party has secured votes in the name of change, to end corruption in the society and to bring reforms in the basic structures of the major institutions of the country.
The PM-elect in his July 26 victory speech looked relaxed and unlike his past had avoided to lash out at his major political opponents – the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), giving an indication that the target is achieved now. Behind this victory is a long political struggle.
PTI that was established in April 26, 1996 by Khan himself could not get a single seat in the 1997 elections. After the October 12, 1999 military coup of then General Pervez Musharraf, Khan opted to support him and his party only won a single seat, Khan’s own, in the 2002 General Elections. In 2007, Khan resigned from his National Assembly seat after Karachi carnage and opposed Musharraf and his party announced boycott of the 2008 General Elections under a uniformed President Musharraf. In 2007, Khan had also been briefly detained during the lawyers' movement.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rose to prominence with a massive rally at Lahore’s famous Minar-e-Pakistan ground many before the 2013 General Elections. But the party could only clinch a few seats in the National Assembly in the election only to sit on opposition benches in the lower house. However, it managed to form provincial government in Khyber PAakhtunkhwa with the help of smaller allies. Khan also got injured in its 2013 election campaign when he fell off a makeshift lift that was taking him to a stage at an election rally in Lahore. Khan instead of going abroad chose to get his treatment from Shaukat Khanim Cancer Memorial Hospital — the facility that was named after his mother and he himself had established for the free treatment of cancer patients.
Khan and his party spent last five years after the 2013 election protesting against rigging and corruption. In 2014, Khan took out a long march from Lahore to the Islamabad and then held a sit-in at main Constitution Avenue of the capital against alleged rigging. The 126-day long sit-in ended due to the Army Public School terrorist incident in Peshawar and with the formation of a judicial commission comprising the Supreme Court judges.
Khan during his sit-in held PML-N and his leader and then PM Nawaz Sharif responsible for the massive rigging in the general election.
The commission only gave its recommendations to improve the election process.
To the luck of Imran Khan, the Panama Papers scandal made headlines in April 2016 stating that former Prime Minister NAwaz Sharif and his family had off shore companies. It was a major turning point in the political career of Khan as he chose to lead the anti-corruption campaign over Panama Papers asking for a probe into the offshore wealth of Sharif family.
In November 2016, Khan announced the ‘Islamabad lockdown’ on November 2 demanding a probe against Sharif family over Panama Papers scandal; however, the Supreme Court took up the matter a day before November 2. Finally, the Panama saga ended with the disqualification of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court on July 28, 2017 and then conviction of Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, his son–in-law Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar, by an accountability court on July 6, 2018.
During this period, the PTI chief faced a disqualification case in the Supreme Court for mis-declaration of his assets in the nomination papers. The court at the end dismissed the case.
Khan, who is known as a genuine all-rounder in cricket and the winner of the 1992 ODI World Cup, has a long struggle of five years to his credit and after the 2013 elections, he succeeded to establish PTI as a genuine opposition party.
During the same period, he married twice, once with TV anchor Reham Khan in 2015 and other with his spiritual leader Bushra Bibi in 2018. The first one could only survive for nine months.
Khan who was known as a frequent visitor of night clubs during his cricket days got himself reformed after retiring from cricket and turned towards spiritualism in the 1990s. He had first found a spiritual mentor Mian Bashir.
Imran Khan born was on October 5, 1952 to a well-off Niazi family in Mianwali, Punjab. He spent most of his time in Lahore. He attended the Cathedral School and Aitcheson College in Lahore and completed an undergraduate degree in Economics from Oxford University. He also remained the captain of the Oxford University cricket team.
Under his captaincy, the Pakistani team won the 1992 Crocket World Cup. After his retirement from cricket, Khan utilized all his energies to establish Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore for the poor cancer patients. He took a tour of the country to collect funds for the hospital besides going abroad.
In 1995, Khan married with Jemima, the daughter of billionaire James Goldsmith. The couple divorced nine years later and have two children, Sulaiman and Qasim.
On April 25, 1996, Khan formed his own political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.