Long after his cricket heyday, 60-year-old Imran Khan is once again inspiring young
Pakistanis on an unprecedented scale.
With just a few months left until the upcoming general elections, many in Pakistan are now
hoping Khan leads their country into stability and prosperity, just like the former cricket
captain led the national team into winning the World Cup in 1992.
Khan is the founder and chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) -- also known as
the "Movement for Justice" -- which now boasts 7 million members.
According to various opinion polls, including that of the U.S.-based Pew Global, he is
the "most popular politician in Pakistan today."
"People are sick of the old political leadership, who have all been in power in the last five
years and have led Pakistan to destruction," he added.
However, if Imran Khan does win the elections, he intends to have a different type of relation with the United States.
(Full television interview with Imran Khan is available in English through Al Arabiya News Channel)
America is "losing the war"
As far as his plans go following an election win, Khan said the first thing he would do is
disengage Pakistan from the American war on terrorism; adding that such disengagement
would make the "Jihad syndrome" go away.
Khan is known to be an outspoken critic of American drone attacks in Pakistan; describing
them as a "violation of all humanitarian laws," particularly as they don't distinguish between
criminal and suspect as they are operated from thousands of miles away. He also believes
they are a violation to Pakistan's sovereignty.
When I previously interviewed Imran Khan in 2008, he was very optimistic at the prospect
of the then-U.S.-presidential-hopeful Barack Obama winning the elections alongside Vice
President Joe Biden.
"If anyone understands this area from American politicians, it's Joe Biden," he said back then.
I ask him if he still stands by his views.
Khan believes that while Obama and Biden had their heart in the right place, they are
surrounded by generals and military advisors, who he believes didn't give them correct
"They are losing the war, because they are losing the hearts and minds of the people," he
said, adding that today there is more anti-Americanism and more hatred due to the Obama
administration's handling of the situation.
After tens of thousands of people were killed, with no end to the war as of yet, Khan stresses
that it is time the U.S. had friends, not lackeys.
"We will be friend of the U.S., but we're not going to be slaves of the U.S," he said.
(With Imran Khan in London after recording the interview - photo courtesy: Faisal J. Abbas)
Position on Syria and India
As for the situation in Syria, Imran Khan describes the deadly conflict as "a mess."
"I believe in democracy; I do not believe in these dictatorships, but the problem is there's a
different stake when it comes to pro-U.S. dictators and ... anyone who's perceived not to be
pro-U.S. like Libya or Syria. It's the double standards that are causing problems," he said.
However, some observers have said that Khan is unwilling to criticize Syrian President
Bashar Assad publically.
"I cannot understand any head of state killing his own people," Khan said in response.
As for relations with India, Khan said his country and its neighbour came very close to
resolving their issues, particularly Kashmir.
He considers that both countries should follow in the footsteps of the Europeans, in opening
their borders and allowing free economic flow.
"The answer lies in politically solving the issue," said Khan.