Friday, 11 November 2011

Imran Khan's Interview with a Turkey News Media

 Pakistan caught in the grip of a political mafia

Imran Khan, world famous cricketer turned politician, is running for president in the upcoming elections in Pakistan.   He aims to succeed the husband of assassinated Benazir Bhutto, “Mr. 10 Percent” President Asif Ali Zardari -- a vision he lays out in his latest book, “Pakistan: A Personal History.” The book is semi-autobiographical while also serving as a political manifesto and a fresh perspective on Pakistan’s troubled history.

Khan has already faced criticism for entering politics, with some labeling him a celebrity politician. However, Khan hits back, saying he believes Pakistan needs a real leadership change to move away from being a nation wrapped in turmoil to a successful, prospering country. “Unfortunately, Afghanistan and Pakistan do not have democratic institutions and we need leadership to give these two countries such institutions,” he told Sunday’s Zaman last month.
A household name after having served as captain for the Pakistani national cricket team, Khan set up the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre, named after his mother, who died of cancer.
In 1996, Khan founded the party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) and became its president. Between November 2002 and October 2007, he represented the district of Mianawali as a member of the National Assembly. In 2007 during President Pervez Musharraf’s declared state of emergency, Khan was placed under house arrest. Having escaped, Khan then went into hiding after it became apparent that Musharraf’s government wanted him for supporting opposition protests. In November, in front of crowds of protesters at a university in Lahore, Khan turned himself in to police who then arrested him under anti-terrorism laws. He was released later that month after his hunger strike made news around the world. That same year, former President Benazir Bhutto returned from exile only to be assassinated in December. Her husband, accused of financial corruption and embezzling millions of dollars to store in Swiss bank accounts, is the current president.
Khan is passionate about bringing change to his country and in particular about the eradication of a culture of corruption and corrupt leaders in Pakistan.
“A homeland is where your roots are; it is where your history and ancestors are. That is important to me,” he said. “All the country’s current top politicians are corrupt and are involved in corruption charges,” he added. “What Pakistan needs now is change.”
Sunday’s Zaman spoke with Imran Khan about his politics, his faith and his vision for his country.
How important is your faith in your life and how does it guide you in your politics?
What faith does for me is that it changes your life in the sense that you realize there is a reason for your existence which is not based on yourself. So your existence means the more the Almighty gives you, the more responsibility you have over what you do for society, or what you do for the less-privileged human beings. So faith should make you compassionate and selfless; it should make you just. We should be just human beings and fair. All this [is] because we believe in a hereafter. So therefore if we believe in a god that is a god of justice, we should believe we will be judged by how we treat our fellow human beings. So really, faith has made me a responsible member of human society and that is why I have entered politics. Otherwise, I would not have entered politics.
Your party’s slogan is “Justice, humanity and self-esteem.” In the Middle East, before the Arab Spring, there was always a lot of hope and cries for change. Do you feel there is the same sense of self-esteem and optimism in Pakistan?
I have optimism. In one way, Pakistan is going through the worst of times and in another way, there is actually more hope for change now and that signals the best of times because the only thing that can save Pakistan is change. We are currently caught in the grip of a political mafia that is plundering the country and that comes in to politics to loot the country. It’s a total criminal takeover of the country. On the other hand, there is a desire from a very politically aware section of Pakistan who now wants a change. And because of a very vibrant electronic media and print media, that political mafia has been exposed in Pakistan. So change is really where hope lies in this country.
What are your party’s chances for success in the upcoming elections?
Well, it’s the only party that people trust and we are the only party that distributes money. I am the leader that runs the biggest charitable institution in this country. Pakistanis don’t trust any other politician, and the top politicians are all involved in corruption or have corruption cases against them. So the biggest advantage we have is our credibility.
How much do you think you can empathize with the poorer sections of society and how can you know what they need?
If you have compassion, then you are able to empathize with people who are suffering anywhere in the world. As a person who is very privileged and who the Almighty has given everything, I feel I should try to do my best for my society and for those less-privileged than me. That is what my religion tells me, too. Pure religion should make you into a good human being; that was the purpose of every prophet on Earth. They wanted us to be decent human beings rather than just intelligent animals.
You were obviously well-educated and you gained your degree at Cambridge -- a top English university. If your party is successful in the elections, how will you ensure that politics and political leadership is open to everyone, regardless of class and social background?
Well, we have to create a level playing field in Pakistan and that happens when you create equal opportunities in education -- give education justice, in other words. Then we have rule of law, which provides traditional justice and, finally, we have economic justice, which means there is [a] fairer, more just society.
For instance, I built a university in the countryside because there was massive unemployment … there. I thought I would build a technical university so that young people could get employment. It’s the first private sector university in the rural area.
You once called for the death penalty for former President Musharraf. Do you still believe in capital punishment?
I’m afraid for certain crimes I do believe in capital punishment, the first being first degree murder, so that is cold-blooded killing. Secondly, I believe that pedophiles -- people who destroy the lives of children -- should face the death penalty. So in those senses, I do believe in capital punishment when human lives are destroyed.
You are heavily critical of Pakistan as a mercenary state in that it is almost completely reliant on aid. Why is aid such a bad thing?
Because aid is a curse. Remember, aid has never helped any country -- except for the Marshall Plan, which was a great success -- and it has never helped any country stand on its own two feet. When people get together in a society and make collective sacrifices, they are the ones who are helping the country and putting it back on its feet. So aid has been a curse for Pakistan, and what it has done is propped up very corrupt governments and it has stopped us from making the very important reforms necessary to make Pakistan a viable state. It has not helped the people but instead helped the crooked politicians whose corruption is fed by the aid.
What has the “War on Terror” done to the region?
For a start, the war has given us a very corrupt leadership and taken us into a conflict which we have nothing to do with. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11 -- neither was there Taliban or al-Qaeda in Pakistan. It was all in Afghanistan. We had nothing to do with the war. It was just about [Musharraf’s] dictatorship that wanted US support. We have thousands dead and over $70 billion lost to the economy. We have 3.5 million refugees internally displaced. There is growing extremism and radicalism, so the “War on Terror” has been a disaster and after fighting this war for the US, we are still not trusted, given all the sacrifices we have made. I blame our leadership for taking us into this war.
What kind of relations would you like Pakistan to have with Turkey, particularly as a country that is becoming popular amongst Muslim nations?
Well, let me say that what your prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has done in Turkey has been one of the biggest success stories in the Muslim world. The democratic trail has bought so much prosperity to the country, and Erdoğan has strengthened democracy and also given leadership to the Muslim world. The only other leader who has given us such pride was Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia, and in the same way he changed Malaysia and brought so much prosperity to his people, and that is exactly what Erdoğan has done. The people of Pakistan have always considered Turks as their brothers and, ever since the Khilafat movement in the 1920s, people have looked to Turkey with pride. So there will always be a deep emotional connection with Turkey.
How would you envisage relations with India?
Well, I would like relations with India to improve, but it takes two to untangle a knot. We need good leadership in both countries to settle relations. Regrettably, there is so much suspicion and we regard each other with so much animosity and terrorism on each other’s soils. So unfortunately, relations with India have not always been what they should have been, but the two countries will benefit a lot if we resolve differences politically rather than using secret agencies, which we currently do. Pakistan was created to be the Muslim country for the Indian subcontinent.
What do you think about what is happening with the Muslim minority who live in India, particularly at the hands of the Hindu nationalist party the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)?
Well, you know I am against anyone -- particularly political parties -- who cash in on hatred. So any such party who whips up hatred to gain votes -- I find they do a lot of damage to human society. When the Ajodhya Mosque was destroyed, it whipped up a lot of anger and fanaticism in India and a lot of people were killed, especially Muslims. But when the BJP came into power, they weren’t as right-wing as we predicted they would be and they moved a bit to the center. It sometimes comes down to that: When you are in the opposition you are more extreme than when you are in the government.

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