The Man Who
Has No Fear
By Bina Shah
I went to a wedding last night:
a touching, lovely occasion, as weddings always
are. As I was standing on the stage watching the
joota chupai (a fun custom where the friends of
the bride hide the groom's shoe and he has to pay
them money and get it back so he can leave with
his bride), I looked up and saw a very familiar
face amongst the guests greeting the newly married
It was Imran Khan.
There was a palpable hush and then a gasp as suddenly
everyone seemed to have the same realization as
I did - Imran Khan was on the stage! Sitting with
the bride and groom! Getting his photograph taken!
And he is so handsome!
Within moments he had gotten off the stage and stood
to the side while people bombarded themselves at
him: Eager mothers with young daughters, children
begging him to sign five hundred rupee notes, people
wanting their picture taken with him, waiters and
chowkidars who wanted to shake his hand. He was
extremely gracious towards everyone, shaking hands
and signing autographs and posing for pictures.
I wondered what he was thinking as he was doing
all of this. I suppose he's used to the madness
by now, having lived most of his life in the spotlight.
But it was still very strange. He couldn't complete
a conversation without someone else breaking in,
interrupting, and wanting his attention.
And the effect he had on the women was something
to be seen. Young girls and old women alike were
batting their eyelashes at him and smiling and simpering.
I’d be willing to bet there wasn’t a
girl there who didn’t imagine just for a moment
that it was her and the ex-cricketing superstar
sitting together on the stage underneath the canopy
The thing is, Imran Khan is actually devastating
when you see him in person. He stands ramrod straight
and looks taller than anyone in the room, even if
there are taller men around him. He's not as broad
as he used to be, and has slimmed down, but his
entire body and bearing announces that he is still
a world-class athlete. He has a prowling way of
walking, like a big cat. He speaks slowly and lazily,
even when he's talking about politics, which it's
obvious is his passion much more than any woman
could ever be. In short, he has an intense personal
magnetism that draws you in and forces you to look
at him. Although he is handsome as ever, it's that
aura that everyone, man or woman, finds irresistible
- something much more than charisma, much more than
I think it's the feeling that he is a king in the
making, and he knows it. And everyone wants to be
close to the king so that they can shine a little
bit by association.
What would happen if he were actually allowed to
run this country? I listened to him speak a little
bit about political issues to a select group of
people, of which I was lucky enough to be included
- albeit on the sidelines. Imran has very strong
ideas and is forthright about expressing them, whether
this relates to politics, religion, or his philosophy
of life. He was speaking, when I heard him, about
the fact that Karachi was on the way to social and
economic prosperity and harmony, but that the city
had somehow been derailed along the way.
“Do you think this was a deliberate plot to
diminish Karachi’s importance as a city in
the larger Middle Eastern region?” I asked
“No, it was just more the problems of mismanagement
and corruption. I’ve gone on the record before
stating what and who I think should be held responsible
for this, though. Even though I’ve gotten
a lot of pressure and my party workers have been
harassed, we won’t bow to any sort of political
Although politicians do tend to engage in a lot
of big talk, sometimes it can be hard to pin them
down to their statements. But here was Imran Khan,
taking responsibility for them; I found it incredible
that a man could be so bold about his intentions.
"I have no fears," he said. "Most
people don't achieve their dreams because they're
afraid. That they will lose. That they will lose
their lives. Their money. Their honor. I'm not afraid
of any of those things. At the same time, I know
how blessed I am. But not everything is my timing.
Most of it is Allah's timing."
Imran believes that now is not the time to be obsequious
to Western powers, either. He stated the example
of Mahathir Mohammed’s forcing an apology
from a leading British newspaper for publishing
an article about corruption in Malaysia. “He
told them that he would cancel all British contracts
if they didn’t retract their article. At first
they cried freedom of the press but then they apologized!
Can you believe that!” The admiration on his
face was evident as he related this story. Imran,
obviously, admires those statesmen who can lead
Muslim countries through the political morasses
that have been created by the East-West divide and
the fallout of 9/11. It is a role that one senses
he would play with relish if he were given the chance.
In speaking to Imran, you can't help but get the
feeling that this is a man who holds a firm belief
in himself and in his future. He seems to be totally
confident that everything is going to turn out all
right, and it's an unshakeable belief that colors
everything he does and says. Perhaps this is why
he tends to err and sometimes even offend with his
political pronunciations - take the example of the
religiously colored statements he was making a few
years ago that appealed to the maulvis and infuriated
the liberals of the country. The truth is that Imran
is quite a balanced man - eventually. He swings
one way and then the other before he finally finds
his middle ground.
What Imran needs is a strong advisor, someone who
can play Kissinger to his Nixon, someone who can
take the rough edges off his political style, mentor
him, and help him see the intricacies of political
situations. Because a man like him sees things in
terms of black and white, winning and losing, good
Politics is rarely such a clean game.
At any rate, what is most apparent is that Imran
Khan is a total gentleman, and perhaps that's the
most attractive thing about him. He seems to take
the issues of honor and ethics extremely seriously,
and is working hard to live his life by the principles
that appeal most to his sense of fair play. So far
this has not translated into political success,
but it has given him an incredible amount of personal
capital that he can bank on. No matter what else
happens, Imran Khan has the total respect of the
Pakistani people, his political or personal difficulties
aside. This is why he holds so much promise for
the nation, and why he represents such a threat
to its establishment.
Imran Khan, in short, is a man with no fears, and
in politics, that is a far more threatening thing
than any terrorist could ever be.