The Indian chattering class and their Imran Khan syndrome

The Indian chattering class and their Imran Khan syndrome

Back in the 1970s and 1980s when the Pakistani cricket team toured India the five-day matches seemed even more drawn out and dreary than usual as both teams, not wanting to lose, played it safe. Those seeking some entertainment got it by reading about the Pakistani captain Imran Khan’s dalliances off the field. During the 1979 tour, it was his alleged affair with Indian actress Zeenat Aman that was the talk of the media. In 1987, women in big cities like Delhi were swooning over the debonair cricketer.

One might as well have tried stopping the wind from blowing than try to reason with these starstruck aunties and college girls that the Pakistani cricket team – like the rest of their country – harboured a deep animosity towards India, and Khan probably had similar feelings under his Oxford educated veneer. Indeed, what Pakistan watchers suspected those days was confirmed by Khan in an interview to CNN-IBN. He was quoted saying, “I grew up hating India because I grew up in Lahore and there were massacres of 1947, so much bloodshed and anger. But as I started touring India, I got such love and friendship there that all this disappeared.” (1)

Note that the Mianwali, Punjab, born cricketer didn’t say he reciprocated the love and friendship from India; only that his hatred disappeared. However, Khan’s attacks on former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his conciliatory approach towards India indicate that his hatred has not gone away.

Indians with a good memory may remember what Khan said when asked by the Pakistani media why he dated a Bollywood actress when there were so many beautiful women available in his own country. “Pathans have traditionally gone south for their women,” he said. The crass reply shows you can take a misogynist out of Mianwali but you can’t take Mianwali out of the misogynist.

Khan was alluding to the fact that Afghans frequently raided Punjab and northern India and returned with huge quantities of loot as well as thousands of captives, including women. (In his autobiography, Imran claims his family had come to the Indian subcontinent with invading Pashtun tribes during the fifteenth century.) The statement drew some flak from socialites and the media in both India and Pakistan but since the Pakistani cricketer was good looking and wore a tuxedo to parties he was given the benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps the chattering classes of India love Khan because he is their mirror image – feudalistic and class conscious despite the liberal veneer. Watch this video (2) where he loses his cool and slaps his own candidate. The footage shows the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party leader pushing and slapping Shahid Khattak at the bottom of the stairs as he tries to reach the stage.

That’s the real Imran Khan.

Misogynist mentality

One of the little known facts about the newly selected (as opposed to elected) Prime Minister of Pakistan is that his complete name is Imran Khan Niazi. He belongs to the same Niazi Pashtun tribe of which the second most famous – or notorious – member is Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, the disgraced Pakistani general who surrendered along with 93,000 Pakistan Army soldiers before the victorious Indian Army in the 1971 War.

Prior to the 1971 India Pakistan War every member of the tribe proudly flaunted their Niazi heritage. But after the capitulation – the biggest since the surrender of 91,000 German troops of General Paulus’s Sixth Army in World War II – Khan along with his Niazi uncles and cousins are keeping a distance from the name like some do from poor relations. In his autobiography, Khan mentions a bunch of his famous tribesmen including cricketers Mohsin Khan and Javed Burki but A.A.K. Niazi is left out because of the shame.

AAK Niazi was a jehadi general who let loose jehadi partisans (3) whom he handpicked from among the Bangladeshi people and trained against the hapless Bengalis – both Hindu and Muslim. His hatred of Bengalis was so intense that in April 1971 when he arrived in Dhaka to suppress the Bangladesh liberation movement he remarked: “Mein is haramzadi quam ki nasl badal dunga.” (Translation: I’ll transform the breed of this bastard community.)

The Pakistan Army general meant that the fair skinned Punjabis and Pathans of the Pakistan Army would change the complexion of the dark Bangladeshis. This was a diabolic reprise of the Nazi Party’s experiments in eugenics. The difference was the Pakistan Army’s plan of action was to rape Bengali women.

Soldiers of the Pakistan Army not only killed 3,000,000 Bengalis but also raped as many as 600,000 Bengali women and young girls. (4) The Pakistani generals fixed rape quotas for their soldiers and porn movies were shown to stir up these Punjabi and Pathan troops. (5)

Considering the Pakistanis committed such atrocities, it is understandable that Imran would like to remain as far away from General Niazi’s legacy as he possibly can. However, in some areas he shares a lot with his disgraced tribesman. The first area should really interest Indian liberals, champagne socialists and feminists because it is misogyny.

We are talking about a man who is thrice divorced and has fathered children whom he does not acknowledge. In 1997 Khan’s ex-girlfriend Sita White filed a paternity suit, saying blood tests had proved he was the father of her daughter. In her court deposition, Sita alleged that Khan’s response, upon learning that it was a girl, was of regret and distress, asserting that the child would not be able to play cricket. He in fact urged her to have an abortion, but she refused. (6)

Khan offers an ingenious reply – which seems uncannily similar to the way some prophets magically find answers to complex questions: “The Koran says to put a veil on your sins. So whatever I do, as long as I kept it between me and my God, it’s not hypocrisy.” (7)

Blasphemy law supporter

Khan is sometimes called Taliban Khan for his mainstreaming of extremism. The former cricketer has long supported some of the most deranged fanatics in Pakistan’s Islamist groups to rightly deserve this appellation. India’s communists, seculars and liberals who so adore Khan will be the first ones the fundamentalist parties would drag out into the streets of Lahore and Karachi and despatch to hell after first accusing them of not being respectful enough towards Islam.

One of the most controversial laws in Pakistan is Section 295-C or the blasphemy law, which allows anyone (especially Sunni Muslims) to accuse non-Muslims (particularly Christians, Ahmadis and Shias) of having insulted Islam or Islam’s prophet, Mohammed. The law says: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

As well as men, several non-Muslim women are also on death row, with Western pressure alone preventing their summary execution.

Khan has vowed to defend the law. Just weeks before the election, he told clerics in televised comments that his party “fully” supports the blasphemy law “and will defend it”.

“No Muslim can call himself a Muslim unless he believes that the Prophet Mohammed is the last prophet,” he said — a statement that raised alarm among the Ahmadi sect, which is persecuted for their belief in a prophet after Mohammed. (8)

No Indian – barring the odd Muslim with a diehard jehadi mentality – would want to live in Pakistan. So it’s a mystery why the Indian seculars, who would be the first to be executed by an Islamic government, would swoon over Khan’s election as the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Supporting a war criminal

On December 12, 2013 Bangladeshi Islamist leader Abdul Quader Molla and a politician of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami was hanged. The International Crimes Tribunal set up by the government of Bangladesh found him guilty of war crimes during the country’s liberation movement. Although the United Nations and other usual suspects such as international human rights organisations appealed that Molla’s life be spared, there was widespread support from the general people of Bangladesh for the execution.

Below are just two mentions from the long list of charges against Molla: (9)

Charge 5: Attack and indiscriminate shooting by Quader Molla and his gang killed hundreds of unarmed people of two villages. On the early morning of 24 April 1971, members of Pakistan occupation forces and around 50 non-Bangalees in the presence of Quader Molla raided Alubdi village of Mirpur and attacked on unarmed villagers, killing 344 people.

Charge 6: On 26 March 1971, led of Quader Molla, some Bihari and Pakistani soldiers killed Hazrat Ali and five members of his family at Mirpur. Entering his house, the soldiers shot dead Hazrat and killed his wife Amina and daughters Khadija and Tahmina. That day they also killed his only son, two-year-old Babu, by dashing the baby against the ground.

There is absolutely no doubt about Molla’s guilt. There are hundreds of witnesses in Bangladesh who have identified him as the leader of lynch mobs that committed these atrocities. And guess who believes this reprehensible mullah was innocent. Yes, Imran Khan. Despite having no locus stand in the matter and on the contrary being on the guilty side, he described Mollah’s hanging as a “judicial murder”. (10)

On the day of the hanging, Khan made a speech in Pakistan’s National Assembly, saying Molla should have been spared as he was “innocent”, “92 years old”, a “Muslim” and “our Muslim brother”. He also bizarrely gushed that Molla “was loyal to Pakistan and supported the Pakistan Army during the 1971 war”. (11)

Bombastic Niazis

Political commentators describe AAK Niazi’s legacy as a mixture of the foolhardy and the ruthless. He was noted for making audacious statements like: “Dacca will fall only over my dead body.” According to Pakistani author Akbar S. Ahmed, he had even hatched a far-fetched plan to “cross into India and march up the Ganges and capture Delhi and thus link up with Pakistan”. This he called the “Niazi corridor theory”, explaining: “It was a corridor that the Quaid-e-Azam demanded and I will obtain it by force of arms”. (12)

In a plan he presented to the Pakistani government in June 1971, he stated: “I would capture Agartala and a big chunk of Assam, and develop multiple thrusts into Indian Bengal. We would cripple the economy of Calcutta by blowing up bridges and sinking boats and ships in Hooghly River and create panic amongst the civilians. One air raid on Calcutta would set a sea of humanity in motion to get out of Calcutta.”

On another occasion he said: “You just wait and see that I am going to make it to Calcutta one day.” He did indeed live up to his words, and made it to Calcutta less than three months later, but only as a prisoner of war. (13)

Imran Khan is no different when he claims he’ll make a “Naya (New) Pakistan”. He did start out as the outlier in a political landscape dominated by large landowning elites and the military. After decades of tasting defeat and hungry for power he has done what every self-serving politician has done in Pakistan – strike a Faustian Bargain with the Pakistan Army. His ‘party of change’ now comprises the same group of politicians that populate other political parties.

Pakistan experts like C. Christine Fair (14) can see through Khan’s game. Unlike the Pakistan lovers in the Indian media, Washington Post and New York Times, she doesn’t mince words: “Those of us who have watched Pakistan for decades, however, viewed the election with a more jaundiced eye. It was marked by appalling levels of electoral violence, including an election day suicide bombing in Quetta that killed at least 31. Second, the result was predetermined by Pakistan’s powerful army, which engaged in electoral malfeasance for months leading up to the election and on election day itself. The army was hell-bent upon securing Khan’s victory and even encouraged political parties with overt ties to terrorist groups to field several hundred candidates, alongside some 1,500 candidates tied to Pakistan’s right-wing Islamist parties. These right-wing groups will help forge Khan’s electoral coalition, underwritten by Pakistan’s army and the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the intelligence agency that does the army’s dirty work at home and abroad.

“Predictably, this election, like virtually every previous election in Pakistan, will have few consequences for Pakistan’s behaviour at home or abroad. This is because the power to alter these policies resides in the army’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi, not in the parliament or prime minister’s office in Islamabad.”

In her 1991 book, ‘Waiting for Allah’, Christina Lamb, (15) describes the conditions in Pakistan in the following lines: “Islam in danger was the cry raised to justify the necessity of dividing India and inventing a country for Indian Muslims. Today in their very own homeland Muslims need safeguarding from each other…The needs of the masses will remain ignored because the gulf between the two groups is too wide. It would take a revolutionary to challenge the entrenched power structures. The only other way for these to be dismantled now would be for the country to break up.”

Because Khan is no revolutionary, a revolution can be safely ruled out. However, Khan’s descent into Islamic fundamentalism will ensure that like the Niazi of 1971, he could be the 21st century Niazi who becomes the catalyst that breaks up Pakistan. His secular and liberal fanboys in India will be only ones mourning such an outcome.


  1. Free Press Journal,
  2. Samaa TV,
  3. Bangladesh News,
  4. One India News,
  5. Women’s Media Centre,
  6. The News,
  7. The Guardian,
  8. The Guardian,
  9. Dhaka Tribune,
  11. Bangladesh News,
  12. Defence Journal,
  13. Dawn,
  14. Foreign Policy,
  15. Christina Lamb, Waiting for Allah,

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Rakesh Krishnan Simha

Rakesh is a globally cited defence analyst. His articles have been quoted extensively by national and international defence journals and in books on diplomacy, counter-terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south.