THE BLOG

Interview With Imran Khan, Part One (From His Sit-in in Islamabad)

01/12/2014 13:31 GMT | Updated 22/01/2015 10:59 GMT

NK: To begin with I'd like to put to you what Cyril Almeida, a bright, young thing from Oxford - considering the store you set by a British education for Pakistanis, particularly an Oxbridge one - wrote in one of his opinion-pieces in Dawn (Pakistan's oldest national English-language broadsheet):

The only growth industry in Pakistan is the militant complex. It's everywhere, so ubiquitous now that few even recognize it as an aberration. And soon we may find out what happens when a booming industry, the infrastructure of jihad, catches up to and overtakes a declining state.

Miserable and predictable as civ-mil and pyrrhic wars among the civilians are, it would almost - almost - be acceptable if it were the only game in town. Eventually, someone would win.

But there's a dark horse, the infrastructure of jihad, in this race now. And the longer the race goes on, the more miserable and predictable iterations of the old equation are, the more it looks like the dark horse may win.

Time - that's really what Pakistan doesn't have much of anymore.

IK: It's so removed from reality. Utter nonsense! In any society, where there's injustice, there'll be turmoil. Jihad started off with the war on terror but before that it started with the Afghan jihad with the Soviets and sadly, once the jihad was over these militant groups were used by our establishment. They should've been disbanded but degenerated into sectarian groups in a society where the state is getting weaker and the police totally corrupt.

In Karachi, there's no jihad but they discover ten dead bodies every day; it was two thousand last month and that's all target killings because the police is totally politicised and the parties in power protect certain militant groups. In Quetta, it's sectarianism and some of the sectarian groups are protected. The moment the US. leaves Afghanistan, you'll see the level of violence come down.

NK: You show a persistently soft approach towards the Taliban and the like. If ISIS keep expanding towards the East when you become PM., would you allow for Pakistan to be part of the new Caliphate or will you openly denounce and fight ISIS?

IK: This is a deliberate attempt to make two camps, either you're anti-Taliban or you're pro-Taliban. It's just such a naïve way of looking at a very complicated issue which I understand more than others. I wrote a book, twenty years back, The Warrior Race which was on the tribal areas and I'm probably the only male politician who has been throughout the tribal areas. I always spoke out against military action. I said there would never be a military solution and it would end up complicating things.

NK: You have consistently been passive on the religious law in Pakistan. Will you work to repeal the blasphemy law if you come into power?"

IK: The British brought the blasphemy law because when communities were living together, if anyone said something against the sacred being of another community, there were riots and deaths so the law ensured that this wouldn't happen. Pakistan inherited it. If the law is applied properly, it deters people because in villages when you have one community blaspheming against another, then you will have vigilantes who take law into their hands and kill people so, at least, this gives cover. It gives the police that comes in the opportunity to go to a court of law. All they have to do is prove that someone has committed blasphemy and no sensible person knowing the sensitivities and the impact would do this.

The problem is the law is abused and used against opponents. Land mafias use it against minorities. As rule of law collapses, you have all sorts of issues which should be non-issues really. What law we also need is perjury. People accuse someone of blasphemy with malafide intentions and get away with it even if it turns out that they've been lying.

NK: A criticism against you is that many people who surround you are from the landed gentry you rail against. You claim though that you want to displace them in parliament. Where are the technocrats; where are the educated - apart from a token few - who haven't a cat-in-hell's chance of entering parliament?

IK: we didn't have much time in the last elections to select candidates properly but next time I will personally whet the candidates. On our safe seats, we need technocrats who understand governance because politicians don't.

Further, there should be a land ceiling in Pakistan because there's so much landless labour. In the last twenty years, for the rich, tax has gone down by 18% and for the poor has risen by 35% so the poor are subsidising the rich.

NK: To what extent are your children aware of what you're doing in Pakistan? They are grown up now so I was wondering - since the future of the youth of Pakistan is an abiding concern for you - why you don't draw them out of their upper-crust London bubble and bring them in contact with the deprivation and young people you clearly care and show such passion for?

IK: They're completely aware. They spend their holidays here with me. They're 17 and 15; they're with their mother and the last thing I would want is to take them away from their mother because I was very close to my mother.

They are well-grounded, they're following everything and now more so because of social media, live streaming etc. They watched PTI's biggest rally in Lahore.