PAKISTAN: A Personal History

By Imran Khan

(Bantam, R250)

When a book about this hapless country appears, written by its foremost cricketer, we sit up. Imran Khan is a legend not only for having shaped and led Pakistan’s national cricket team to victory, but for his suave cosmopolitan image, his good looks, and the popularity he enjoyed in English high society.

When your time is up as a sportsman, it is hard to find an alternate occupation, especially when you’ve retired fairly young and have a lifetime to fill.

Khan turned to politics.

With Pakistan Khan proclaims the stake he holds in Pakistani politics and makes an appeal for support. He calls it a personal history, that catch-all phrase that releases him from having to balance his opinion or state his sources.

It is not a history. It’s a com-plaint; a long one against the West, Great Britain, the US and the ruling classes of Pakistan for their corruption. Pakistani society so oozes with corruption that it teeters on the brink of becoming |a failed state.

After an essentially Western education at an English model school in Pakistan and then at Oxford, and a glamorous cricketing career in Pakistan, the UK and Australia, Khan began to contem-plate his Islamic roots.

He embarked on a career in politics, opting to place the focus on an Islamic solution to Pakistan’s woes. An Islamic state, he tells us, has to be a democracy and a meritocracy. And the Islamic state has to be a welfare state.

The Western media have repeatedly misrepresented sharia as medieval, perpetuating a prejudice that began with the Crusades. And so we get the measure of his train of thought.

For someone who for so long enjoyed the fruits of the West, to dredge up the Crusades, Inquisi-tion, Hitler and Stalin as evidence of its failings is unhelpful to a case for a better Pakistan.

Khan would have done better to offer concrete proposals for a country galloping towards ruin.

All he can tell us about the eco-nomy is that he would refuse all foreign aid. But what of women’s rights, industrial development and the al-leviation of poverty? Why is India economically so successful and Pakistan not? Is it solely because of American interference?

America has been a loose cannon in the region and has raked up considerable antipathy from the populace, but Pakistanis have failed to take control of their destiny largely because of the corruption in their society. Khan says that even in the national team, players would indulge in intrigue against him in fits of envy and distrust. He argues sententiously, drawing on anecdote and example – the tools of the politician, not the nation-builder.