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Views from Pakistan

"Islam means Justice,
and Justice means Rights"

An Interview with Imran Khan

Imran Khan
To cricket fans around the world, Imran Khan, 45, will perhaps always be the "Lion of Lahore." The legendary cricket captain played for 21 years, both in Pakistan and in the UK. A source of unending national pride for his country he abruptly stopped professional cricket after captaining Pakistan to its l992 World Cup victory and on his 40th birthday, the international playboy metamorphosed into a social and political reformer. These days he dresses in simple, traditional clothing and can usually be found in his small office in the cancer hospital he built in memory of his mother. Not only is this ultra modern facility reputedly the finest of its kind in Pakistan, 92 percent of its patients receive their cancer treatments for free. He credits his abrupt transformation in character to his renewed faith in Islam.

Although Kahn says that he never intended to enter politics, his religious views also catalyzed the formation of a new opposition party in Pakistan, the Tehriq-e-Insaaf, or Justice Party. Current party members are largely middle class professionals with no previous political experience, but who share Khan's vision of a "soft revolution" that will cleanse Pakistan of corruption and improve the country's abysmal health and education systems, as well as sweep aside all "brown-sahib" remnants of British colonialism.

Millions of Pakistanis share Khan's disgust at the greed that governs politics, but after his party's dismal showing in the national and local elections last year, it is still uncertain whether he can ever translate that aversion into votes. But Khan is committed, "whether it's the next election or the next one after that, there's no question of ever giving up until we bring about change."

Nancho: Salman Taseer of the PPP (Pakistan People's Party) once gave this assessment of your political prospects: "He does not understand the realities of politics. Politics in Pakistan is a nasty, slow, dangerous grind. I have been to jail 14 times, he has never seen the back end of a jail." After your poor showing in the February 3rd elections last year, how would you assess his view of the nature of politics in Pakistan and your potential to succeed within it?

IK: People like Salman Taseer are professional politicians. They have no ideology; they have no vision. The only reason they are in politics is to get the perks and privileges and benefits of power. So for them, I guess I am naive because I am an idealist. I believe that Pakistan needs a revolution, precisely against people like Salman Taseer who have just sucked this country dry, who have destroyed this country and destroyed the potential in this country by engaging in meaningless politics - this politics of musical chairs.

We should ask him one question. What leader is he following? Everyone has known for the past ten years that Benazir Bhutto is corrupt and that her husband, Asif Ali Zardari is even more corrupt. The two of them have been siphoning off money from the people of Pakistan for years. What moral thought process is going through his mind when he follows people like that? There is no democracy in his party anyway. There is an "Imperial Highness" and a lot of stooges like him who just follow their leader knowing that she is corrupt. So, I don't take the result in the last election as a discouragement. I didn't even take it as a proper defeat because what is a defeat when if you had won you had got a maximum of three seats?

We were all prepared for the fact that we were not going to win any seats. We were prepared for that in the sense that how could a four-month-old party compete with established parties with established powerbases and with huge amounts of money? Eighty percent of our candidates never fought in elections before and they had no chance to go into the constituencies. We were caught short because the elections came early. If they had been a year later as we were hoping we would have been ready for it. So, what chance did we have to compete?

Most importantly we did not have the money. You need a hell of a lot of money to fight elections. I think we performed much better than was reported because there was a lot of rigging in the elections and not more than 25 percent of the people turned out at maximum. They showed the voter turnout at 38 percent which just wasn't true. And any one present here would confirm that and if the percentage hadn't been inflated, we actually performed very well for a party only four months old.

Nancho: Why did you decide to stand in the elections when as you say the party is in fact very immature?

IK: It was a very calculated move. We knew we could not win the elections and my worry was more of winning the elections than losing it because we were not prepared. Although I'm sure we could have done a better job than what Nawaz Sharif is doing with his huge mandate, we were not prepared for the revolution we want to bring about. The idea of standing in the elections was not to come into power, but to do two things. One was to bring the main issues of corruption and accountability out into public view. Corruption has destroyed not only the institutional infrastructure in Pakistan, it is destroying the social fabric of the country now and has eaten into every institution. We were successful in that because both of the major political parties, which are both corrupt parties, also decided to say that they would fight against corruption.

Number two, we wanted to expose the VIP culture. By VIP culture, we mean that the rulers in this country enjoy extremely extravagant lifestyles, the lifestyles of oil sheiks on poor taxpayers' money. We made people aware that their hard-earned money, their taxes, all goes into is the lavish lifestyles of our elected leaders. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif live like royalty, as if we had struck oil in Pakistan. If you visit the Prime Minister's residence you will find 500 servants in a huge palace with 20 Mercedes, each costing something like l5 million rupees.

This is a poor country. Corruption is the bane of our country. I mean, look at who these same people were before they came into politics and look at who they are now. Nawaz Sharif's family had only one factory, now he has 35 plus factories. We don't even know how many. We have lost count. Where have they made this kind of money? And his factories stop functioning once he is out of power and the moment he gets back into power his factories start blossoming again. And Benazir? Just her Swiss bank accounts are estimated at over 100 million dollars. Where did she make this money? What was she before she had power? She had a little flat in London where she used to live and now she has chateaus in Paris, Swiss bank accounts, a ranch in America. Where has this money come from? The money has been stolen from the people of Pakistan.

So, therefore the idea was to bring these issues to the public, expose these people to the public, knowing that we would lose the elections. So, that was the number one reason we fought the election. And the second reason was that we could use the election to help us form a party infrastructure, a process which usually takes years. Using the election campaign, we now have a structure that we have been consolidating ever since. The people with us now are real revolutionaries. One of the good things about losing elections is that you get rid of all the opportunists, and only the committed, ideological people remain.

Nancho: Having come yourself from a rather privileged class here in Pakistan, what credentials do you feel you have for leading the poor, the impoverished, the disenfranchised?

IK: The assumption that only an underprivileged person can understand how the underprivileged feel is not really true. Nawaz Sharif's family, for example, if you go back just one or two generations, were very underprivileged. It did not mean that once he came into power, he started looking after the underprivileged. No, he started looking after himself. Similarly, there are people who have been very privileged, but God creates compassion in them for the poor. So, the two are not necessarily connected. I have to confess that I never thought of the poor people. I was not born with compassion for poor people.

The whole thing started with this cancer hospital. It made me aware. Actually when my mother was dying of cancer and I was looking for a place where she could be treated here that I realized despite all my resources, I couldn't help her. Yet the cancer treatment was so expensive and I wondered what happens to the poor people? It was that tragedy which made me realize it. Otherwise I, too, today would have been like other sportsman making a lot of money by selling Nike shoes and doing other endorsements. So it changed my direction in life.

And the more I got into it, the more I realized that here we are in the country that at government expense they send VIPs for treatment abroad. If they had not sent them abroad for treatment for just one year, that with that money we could have built a hospital like mine. I mean, that is the sort of money that was being spent. It made me realize that what was going on is criminal. The net transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich is phenomenally low here. We estimated that in America, which is a capitalist country, the transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor is something like 15 percent of the GDP. In Sweden, which is a welfare state, the transfer is 35 percent through social security, unemployment benefits, health care, etc.; that means that 35 percent of taxes taken from the rich help the poor. In Pakistan, which is an Islamic country and an Islamic country by definition is a welfare country, it is one-fifth of one percent every year. So, in an Islamic country the poor are getting poorer because the money is subsidizing the rich. So, that's the reason I feel this compassion and I decided that I would try and change the system.

Nancho: Do you think that you could possibly be more effective as a social reformer than in the realm of politics?

IK: No social reformer has ever, ever changed a country. Even Gandhi was not a social reformer alone. He was a brilliant politician who mobilized the people and had an entire political party behind him. It's only through politics can you change a country. We have a very commendable social worker, Sabjul Kameedi, who has been working in Karachi for years and unfortunately the situation has gone from bad to worse and it's not improving. No social reformer can do anything. I can build a hospital and schools but if the country is sinking what are we going to do? If, for instance, the rupee is devalued through bad management which is being predicted by the way, how are we going to run the hospital? The hospital relies on imported medicine and medicine is one-third the cost of the hospital. Our equipment is all from abroad. We don't manufacture any equipment here. So how are we going to run it? My idea was always to stay in social work. I had thought to go into education after building the hospital but I realized that is not enough. No NGO can do anything. The only way we can change this country is to bring in the proper people at the helm of leadership; people who are conscientious, who want to change the society. Only they can change this country.

Nancho: What are the basic tenets of your soft revolution?

IK: A revolution means that the people who want to uphold the status quo are removed and new people are brought in their place. That is the revolution; that the Mafias that are controlling our wealth, who are controlling our assemblies, who are controlling politics and business in this country and who have benefited enormously from this state patronage, who are all part of this system, they all have to go and a new system has to come in its place.

Nancho: How do you realistically plan to go about affecting this revolution?

IK: The people's awareness of corruption is growing fast and so is the resentment at their suffering. The system is already collapsing. In a way it is divine intervention; the Almighty can allow oppression for so long but eventually that oppression grows to a point and then it destroys itself. The oppression is destroying itself and the system can no longer function - the state enterprises are collapsing; the political system stands completely exposed; the whole parliamentary form of democracy is now exposed. Here we have a prime minister who has completely hijacked all the powers using the mandate the people gave him to bring about reform. He has used that mandate to become a virtual dictator in the country. He has destroyed the Supreme Court because he could not tolerate an independent Supreme Court Justice. He has made the Parliament his slaves. He has taken away their power to debate anything.

The present government has come up with expenditures for expanding the motorway, yet most Pakistanis don't even have a car. I mean, for instance, if you don't have enough money to feed yourself, barely enough expenses to take care of your house, would you first build extensions to your house? When you are living on borrowed money, how can you build motorways of 50 billion rupees, and start building another motorway for 37 billion rupees? This is a country where the expected income is 270 billion rupees and the debt servicing is 240 billion rupees. Quite clearly these projects are not being built for the benefit of the country but for the kickbacks.

This is exactly what happened in Southeast Asia. One of the reasons these economies collapsed is because of the kickbacks. These projects were unviable projects that were being carried out because politicians and businessmen were making a lot of money out of it. I think Pakistan has reached a stage that by next year all the revenue will go into debt servicing. The country is bankrupt. We have come to a crossroads now. The system is about to collapse under its own weight and we will then be able to bring about a revolution because we stand as a party of change. We have not compromised. We were offered an alliance with the leading Muslim League which forms the government and we were guaranteed seats in the Parliament. We could have had our ministers in Parliament right now. People know that we could have compromised but we didn't.

We want nothing less than a revolutionary change. People see now that what we are saying is the truth and that is simply that corrupt people can not hold other corrupt people accountable because they always compromise with each other. And that's what is happening. For one year we just laid very quiet because we wanted the people to watch the performances of their leaders and now the public recognizes that they have failed. So, now is the time that we are going into the field again and start our mass-contact campaign and God willing I think we will win the next election. Just because I've built a hospital and led Pakistan to a World Cup win, they think I'm a savior. I have delivered. It shows how desperate people are with the current political leaders that they'd even think of me.

Nancho: You have said that both a secular form of government as well as parliamentary democracy are both unworkable in a country like Pakistan. What form of government would you suggest?

IK: I think parliamentary democracy can fit in very easily in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. What I have said is that the Westminster type of parliamentary democracy has failed. I believe that systems must evolve from their own culture, own traditions of the people. I just do not think that an alien system imposed on a people ever works. The British Parliamentary Democracy took over 250 years of gradual evolvement to get to where it is today. Similarly the American presidential form of government took a long time. To expect that a country with different traditions, different problems, different languages, different provinces and a different psyche all together, it was wrong to expect that the same sort of system would work here. I think it is time that we started thinking of the experiences of our own country, looking at other systems all over the world and seeing how we can make it work in our own country. That's a long term view.

In the short term, I think that what we need to do is to separate the legislature from the executive. That has to happen because somehow we have to get people in a parliament whose job it is to make laws, to pass legislation and not to come into parliament for the perks and privileges. I think it can be done remaining in this constitution. So, that's really what our party is working at because we feel that if these perks and privileges are removed, the system can work but it needs proper checks and balances which unfortunately this government has destroyed completely. Pakistan really needs to have a proper democratic system; not the pseudo-democracy which we have had in terms of a president dictatorship or a prime minister dictatorship. There is no democracy in Pakistan. In a true democracy the local government is very strong. In other words, decentralization - this is what empowers people. We must also demand proper education system.

Nancho: Can you briefly outline your educational platform?

IK: One syllabus for the whole country. At the moment we have three syllabuses. We have the English medium for the privileged which is about three to four percent of the population. We have Urdu medium for the majority and for those who don't have access to good Urdu-medium schools we have deedri masalasams (sp??) which are religious schools. No country can have three parallel systems which do not communicate with each other at all. You are producing three types of people. The system is very unfair because the poor masses don't have access to higher education. So, we should have one, integrated syllabus for everyone.

That is number one. Number two, we need a mass literacy campaign in this country on an emergency basis; the Army should be involved in it, the youth should be involved in it. Number three we need technical education. We need to produce technocrats. We don't need aimless education producing these graduates with outdated degrees. At present we are producing unemployable youth. That's it in a nutshell.

Nancho: How feasible is it to implement these programs on a grassroots level?

IK: It can only happen with community participation. Unless and until we get the people involved, nothing can happen. We cannot have a centralized system like we have had. We need a decentralized system where the community and the government become one, but the community has control over its own affairs. Right now, we did a survey and out of 54 primary schools, only three were open, 51 were closed; and the teachers were getting their salaries from the national budget, but the teachers were doing other jobs. The villagers did not know who to address their grievances, they had no access to the government. If the villagers were paying the salaries of those teachers, this could never happen.

Nancho: Going back then, can you describe something of your own tribe, the Pathans, and how those values and ethics have permeated your present political philosophy?

IK: I think my ethics are strictly based on Islam. I believe that a proper interpretation of Islam is the cure for Pakistan because Islam is the psyche of the people. People understand the rudiments of Islam here, not the philosophy because unfortunately Islam is constantly exploited for getting votes or for getting political power. It is not used for providing us a civilized system in this country which it can give. The first tenet of Islam is lai, lai, lilla which is a charter for the freedom of man; above all Islam gives freedom to man. Islam insists on a very democratic system and yet that democracy we have never had. We have never had freedom of man here. Our human beings in this country have never had rights. We have had this feudal country where few people have always used the political process to hijack the rights of the people.

The other basis of Islam is justice, hence our Justice Party. Islam can never do injustice to anyone and any unjust law is not Islamic. I adamantly believe that we need to legislate Islamic law that gives us justice, provides rights to the people and protects women and minorities. I believe that if we can do that, we can show the world what Islam really is and change the present perception of Islam in the world. We are told to respect other religions, their places of worship and their prophets.

It should be noted that no Muslim missionaries or armies ever went to Malaysia or Indonesia. The people converted to Islam due to the high principles and impeccable character of the Muslim traders. At the moment, the worst advertisement for Islam are the Muslim countries with their selective Islam, especially where the religion is used to deprive people of their rights. In fact, a society that obeys fundamentals of Islam has to be a liberal one.

Nancho: What role would the minorities and women play in your government? How would it change from the present situation?

IK: As equal citizens. Minorities should have complete rights, and their places of worship should be protected. This was the promise of the only true leader we've ever had, Mohammad Jinnah and every Pakistani should uphold that pledge.

Nancho: You have also been condemned by even your fellow Pakistanis as being an Islamic fundamentalist.

IK: There are two things with which I have been attacked. One is that I am part of Jewish conspiracy and the other is that I'm a fundamentalist. Either I can be part of a Jewish conspiracy or I can be an Islamic fundamentalist. They have both been used politically really to damage me. The Islamic fundamentalist has been used abroad to scare away foreigners and the Jewish conspiracy has been used in Pakistan to tell the local people that I am not a Muslim at all. It's all politically motivated because I could not be attacked in terms of corruption.

Nancho: What does Islamic fundamentalism mean? Why has the West taken on this term to crusade against the Muslims?

IK: The West is totally ignorant about Islam. There are pockets in the West now which fortunately are beginning to understand. I have read one or two very important books by westerners on Islam recently but books like "Clash of Civilization" by Huntington don't help. He envisages these monolith Islamic civilizations and doesn't realize that in Islam there are so many different types of civilizations. To say that Islam here in Pakistan is the same as that in Chechnya or in Bosnia or in Saudi Arabia is just nonsense because they are very different civilizations. We believe in the same basic ideology, but that ideology encompasses all human beings.

Islam basically is the brotherhood of man, it isn't just for Muslims. We call Allah, who is our God, the god for all mankind. As a religion it preaches universalism and unity of man and to protect the rights of all citizens, of all religious sects, of all ethnic groups. Look at what the slave trade did in the West and look at the slave trade in the Middle East. The blacks in the Middle East are completely integrated with the population. The Kuwaiti royal family is obviously descended from the Negroes. We have had slave dynasties and slave kingdoms in the Muslim Empire. But look at America. It still has not come to terms with its slave past. Look at the history of Jews. Look at how the Jews have been treated by the Europeans. When they were persecuted in France they went to Muslim Spain for refuge; when the Catholics persecuted them in Muslim Spain they went to North Africa and the Ottoman Empire for refuge. It was the Muslims who gave them rights of worship at a time when these concepts were uncommon in the western way of thinking. During the Inquisition people were tortured because of their religion.

So, to turn around and brand Islam as this barbaric religion and to conduct a propaganda campaign against it, is to not understand history and to not understand Islam. If a single Muslim commits a crime in the world, immediately all of Islam gets branded. But when a Jew kills people in a mosque, he is simply labeled a fanatic. It is not the Jewish race which is condemned. This propaganda campaign has only served to make the West petrified of Islam. Although to be honest, the Muslims, too, have not communicated proper understanding of Islam to the West.

Nancho: The understanding of other religions within Islamic Pakistan, too, has not been too well communicated it seems.

IK: In Pakistan the majority of the people are extremely moderate. They have lived with the Hindus for centuries. Most of their history here has been living with the Hindus. Just fifty years back in the Punjab they were living with the Sikhs. Sectarianism and religious intolerance is a relatively recent phenomena in our history and I believe that it is politically motivated. Most people have condemned sectarianism in the country. Who are these people? Who patronizes them? Who allows them to carry guns? Who allows them to get out of prison?

We just read in the paper that 140 convicted terrorists have just been released in Karachi. So, how can you have law and order? But why blame that on Islam? Look at how the BJP has gained strength basing itself on hatred, on anti-Pakistan, on anti-race? Why has no religious party ever really succeeded here? No one votes for them. There are fanatics in every movement or every so-called fundamentalist movement has its own history.

How can you call the movement in Iran a fully Islamic movement? It came under the umbrella of Islam but there were all kinds of people in that movement who shared one aim: to rid itself of a tyrant, a dictator and a corrupt dictator at that. Everyone acknowledges that. So, really the civilized world, based on the standards the western world has set itself, should have backed the Iranians But instead they were branded as fundamentalists.

Nancho: What catalyzed your personal transformation from international playboy to devout Muslim?

IK: My generation grew up with a severe colonial hang up. Our older generation had been virtual slaves and had a huge inferiority complex of the British. The school I went to was similar to all elite schools in Pakistan. Despite becoming independent, they were, and still are, producing replicas of public school boys rather than Pakistanis. I read Shakespeare, which was fine, but no Alama Iqbal. Despite periodically shouting "Pakistan Zindabad" at school functions, I considered my own culture backward and Islam an outdated religion. Because of the power of the Western media, all our heroes were western movie or pop stars. When I went to Oxford already burdened with this hang-up from my school days, things didn't get any easier. In University not just Islam but all religions were considered an anachronism. Science had replaced religion and if something couldn't be logically proven, it did not exist. Philosophers like Darwin with his theory of evolution was supposed to have disproved the creation of men and hence religion.

Moreover, European history had an awful experience with religion. The horrors committed by the Christian clergy in the name of God during the Inquisition, had left a powerful impact on the western mind. To understand why the West is so keen on secularism, one should go to places like Cordoba in Spain and see torture apparatus used during the Spanish Inquisition.

However, the biggest factor that drove people like me away from religion was the selective Islam practiced by most of its preachers. In other words, there was a huge difference between what they practiced and what they preached. Also, rather than explaining the philosophy behind the religion, there was an overemphasis on rituals. The worst, of course, was the exploitation of Islam for political gains by various individuals or groups. It was a miracle I did not become an atheist. The only reason why I didn't was the powerful religious influence wielded by my mother on me since my childhood. It was not so much out of conviction, but love for her that I stayed a Muslim.

However, my Islam was selective, meaning I accepted only parts of the religion that suited me. If there was a God I was not sure about it and certainly felt that he did not interfere with my life. I was smoothly moving to becoming a Pukka Brown Sahib, a totally Anglicized Pakistani. I had the right credentials in terms of the right school, university, and above all, acceptability in the English aristocracy, something that our brown sahibs would give their lives for. So, what led me to turn my back on the Brown Sahib culture?

Firstly, the inferiority complex that my generation had inherited , gradually went as I developed into a world class athlete.

Secondly, I had the unique position of living between two cultures. I began to see the advantages and disadvantages of both the societies. In western societies, institutions were strong while they collapsing in our country. However, there was an area where we were and still are superior, and that is our family life.

I used to notice the loneliness of the old-age pensioners at Hove Cricket Ground during my Sussex years. Imagine sending your parents to Old People's Homes. Even the children there never had the sort of love and warmth that we grew up with here. They completely miss out on the security blanket that a joint family system provides. This is why we have this huge unemployment and yet we don't have any riots here, because the extended family takes them in. However, I began to realize that the biggest loss to the western society - that in trying to free itself from the oppression of the clergy, they had removed both God and religion from their lives.

While science can answer a lot of questions, no matter how much it progresses, two questions it will never be able to answer. One, what is the purpose of existence and two, what happens to us when we die? It is this vacuum that I felt created the materialistic and the hedonistic culture. A culture premised on making money is bound to cause psychological problems in a human being, as there is going to be an imbalance between the body and the soul. Consequently in the USA, which has shown the greatest materialistic progress and also gives its citizens the greatest human rights, almost 60 percent of the population consult psychiatrists. Yet, amazingly in modern psychology, there is no study of the human soul.

Sweden and Switzerland, who provide the most welfare to their citizens, also have the highest suicide rates. Clearly man is not necessarily content with material well being. He needs something more. All morality has its roots in religion, so once religion was removed, immorality has progressively escalated. The direct impact of it is on family life. In the UK, the divorce rate is 60 percent, while it is estimated that there are over 35 percent single mothers. The crime rate is rising in almost all western societies, but the most disturbing fact is the alarming increase in racism.

But most significantly a series of events in the 80s moved me towards God. As the Quran says: "There are signs for people of understanding." One of them was cricket. As I was a student of the game, the more I understood the game, the more I began to realize that what I considered to be chance, was, in fact, the will of Allah, the pattern which became clearer with time. But it was not until Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses that my understanding of Islam began to develop. People like me who were living in the western world bore the brunt of anti-Islam prejudice that followed the Muslim reaction to the book.

Since I felt strongly that the attacks on Islam were unfair, I decided to defend my religion. It was then I realized that I was not equipped to do so as my knowledge of Islam was inadequate. So I started my research and for me a period of my greatest enlightenment. I read scholars like Ali Shariati, Mohammad Asad, Iqbal, Gai Eaton, plus of course, a study of the Holy Quran. When the believers are addressed in the Quran it always says, "Those who believe and do good deeds." In other words, a Muslim has a dual function. One towards God and the other towards fellow human beings.

The greatest impact of believing in God for me, meant that I lost all fear of human beings. The Quran liberates man from man when it says that life and death and respect and humiliation are God's jurisdiction, so we do not have to bow before other human beings. One does not eliminate earthly desires, but instead of being controlled by them, one controls them. This is what discovering truth meant for me. By believing in Islam, I have become a better human being. I feel that because the Almighty gave so much to me, in turn I must use that blessing to help the less privileged. Through my faith, I have discovered strength within me that I never knew existed and that has released my potential in life. My education program that I intend to announce is far more ambitious than the cancer hospital project.

I feel that in Pakistan we have selective Islam. Just believing in God and going through the rituals is not enough. One also has to be a good human being. I feel there are certain western countries with far more Islamic traits than us, especially in the way they protect the rights of their citizens, or for that matter their justice system. I mean, I won a case against an English folk hero in the English court, by an English jury.

I appreciate much about the Western culture. The most striking thing about America is how the ordinary man is given rights which are protected by the state, by the courts. But the ideal civilized system is where the individual's and the society's rights, the community's rights are balanced. They don't impinge on each other.

What I dislike about them is their double-standards in the way they protect the rights of their citizens and yet consider citizens of other countries as being somehow inferior to them as human beings. Dumping toxic waste in the Third World, for example, or advertising cigarettes which is not allowed in the West or selling chemicals like DDT and heptochlorate, known carcinogens, which are banned in the West.

Nancho: The jilghar system which is a council of the most respected elders of the community is the traditional way of solving disputes. Every decision must be followed and cannot be challenged. This is prominent in Pathan tribes where there is no court, no police, everything is decided by jilghar.

IK: I have faith that given a chance, all the diverse sects could sent their elders to a council in Islamabad and hammer out a law code acceptable to all. But the problem in Pakistan is the quality of people who end up in Parliament. If drug smugglers, people who have looted our banks, people who make money through corruption, are allowed in the Parliament, then the whole system is destroyed. How can these people who are presently in Parliament nominate the members of the Panchayat and the Jilghar? They will corrupt the whole system.

The way the jilghar works in the Frontier and in the tribal areas, is that a family nominates the best person to represent them. Twenty households will have one representative each who will then select the best representative who goes into the fagar jilghar. This is how proper grassroots democracy works. The reason that it works is that the people who get nominated are the people who are respected in the family and who are respected in the area.

These people receive no perks and privileges. They're not allowed contracts or anything. Their sole job is to be responsible to their society and do the best for their community. That's why in the tribal area, there is as much crime in one year as there is in two or three days in Lahore. There is justice for all and it doesn't cost any money. Here if someone who has money commits a crime, it's impossible to prosecute him because he can virtually buy any court he wants. He can buy any police station. If you have money you are above the law here.

Until twenty years ago these people were under tribal law. Then, of course, the government of Pakistan brought their civilizing laws to them and since then corruption has increased and they could no longer afford justice. This is one reason there were rebellions in provinces in certain divisions of the Northwest Frontier in which many people died. Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister, called it fundamentalism but it was a group of people asking for justice, which they were granted under the tribal laws. So again we are speaking of decentralization and allowing for respected people to represent these communities.

Nancho: Decentralization is a major cornerstone of your platform. How then do you feel about the big multinationals, like the tobacco companies, wanting to come into Pakistan and use it as a base for distribution around Central Asia?

IK: Any multinational can come into Pakistan and sell whatever product they want, no matter how harmful to the people because they have huge amounts of money and here everyone is for sale. It can only change if you have a proper government which worries about the people, not about their own bank balances in Swiss bank accounts. By investing in certain areas, however, I think the multinationals could be of some help in a country like ours.

I believe that no country can progress without a vision. The government's job is to facilitate the people but at the same time I am not that anti-multinational either. I think if the country has the right policy, then the multinational will fit into that policy; I don't think the multinational, or for that matter, the IMF should make policy for a country.

Nancho: Well, what is your personal vision for Pakistan in the 21st century, especially considering that you now have a young son who is going to inherit this culture?

IK: My vision is a huge vision. But in a nutshell, I want Pakistan to be a model Islamic state which relies on the freedom of man. I believe that God has given us enormous potential, all human beings. That potential can only be developed in a free environment. Freedom from illiteracy, freedom from all forms of state oppression, equal opportunities, justice, a proper system of law and order and having a small bureaucracy. I believe in an efficient state which does not impinge on people's individual rights but allows for the natural genius of people to evolve and to develop. Only then can we create a civilized country.

One of the problems facing Pakistan is the polarization of two reactionary groups. On the one side is the westernized group that looks upon Islam through western eyes and has inadequate knowledge about the subject. It reacts to any one trying to impose Islam in the society and wants only a selective part of the religion. On the other extreme is the group that reacts to this westernized elite and in trying to become a defender of the faith, takes up intolerant and self-righteous attitudes that are repugnant to the spirit of Islam. What needs to be done is to somehow start a dialogue between the two extremes. In order for this to happen, the group on whom the greatest proportion of our educational resources are spent in this country must study Islam properly. Whether they become practicing Muslims or believe in God is entirely a personal choice; as the Quran tells us that there is "no compulsion in religion." However, they must arm themselves with knowledge as a weapon to fight extremism.

If our westernized class started to study Islam, not only will it be able to help our society fight sectarianism and extremism, but it will also make them realize what a progressive religion Islam is. As I said before Islam means justice, and justice means rights. The greatest emphasis in Islam is on education, but education with a purpose; an education which brings about ethics and gives people a direction, a purpose in life; an education which gives people civic responsibility. Islam tells us we are here for a certain purpose, not to sort of gather as much wealth as one can and look after only oneself. We must ingrain this feeling of the community and the country as a united, but separate whole.

Nancho: How does India fit into this vision?

IK: India is a neighbor and we should have friendly relations with all our neighbors and all human beings. You know, for instance, in this hospital you needn't be a Muslim to be allowed in here. Anyone can walk in here with dignity.

Nancho: That is a very political response. What can you actually do to help defuse the present antagonistic situation that exists between India and Pakistan where a large percentage of their national budgets is going toward increased defense spending?

IK: You say that it's a political statement, but it's not really. There are two separate things: the defense of a country and what can be hoped for in a relationship. The reason we do not have a relationship with them is because of Kashmir. When one sees the kind of oppression that is going on in Kashmir, I think it is our moral duty, and not only ours, it should be the world's, the international community's moral responsibility, to help these people to decide their own destiny. The 1948 UN Resolution clearly stated that these people should be allowed to hold a plebiscite to decide their own fate. The international community clearly seems to have forgotten them but Pakistan should never abandon the Kashmiris.

As far as militarization is concerned, I believe that we should always be capable to defend ourselves. I once believed that we should disarm; I was a pacifist but watching what happened in Bosnia made me realize that if you cannot defend yourself, no one is going to defend you. We are not Kuwait, we don't have oil here, so no one is going to rush to our defense. The BJP in India is threatening to destroy us. To live as a slave would be unacceptable.

Nancho: You have always displayed a fierce single-mindedness with a marksman's ability to focus on the ball amid the roar of 70,000 spectators. Can you describe that experience during intense moments of concentration and how this will help you in your political career?

IK: Anyone who achieves anything in professional sport and probably anything in life, has to be single-minded. You have to have the concentration, the self-denial, the determination and the ability to rise from a defeat. You can ever become a champion unless you can constantly lift yourself back up after falling down. You cannot become a champion. You can be a most talented player but only fighting back makes a champion. More than my concentration was my ability to lift myself again and again which I always did in my cricketing career.

Fighting back from a defeat always strengthens you. God has made us such that if I want to build my muscle, for instance, I have to put it against resistance. That's how my muscle gets stronger. The same for my mind. If I want to study, I have to apply my mind and then the potential grows. The same applies for a person as a whole. When you put yourself to challenge and resistance you get stronger. And the easier life you have, the weaker you get. That's why our ruling elite is so decadent because they have had it very easy. Father comes into politics, son comes into politics. It's all in the family. Similarly if you have a lot of money, you buy your way in. These kind of people believe in shortcuts. I believe basically that there is no shortcut in life.


Nancho rep: Kathy Sokol-Kubiak

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