Imran Khan, the new Prime Minister – A Pakistani Atheist’s view

Imran Khan was a playboy, liberal Muslim in his first 30 odd years of his life

Hello folks, this is Harris Sultan. As most of you would have heard by now that Imran Khan is going to be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. A lot of Indians and ex-Muslims are surprised with my support of Imran Khan. Therefore, I thought it’s important to give my detailed view on why I support Imran Khan and how most Ex-Muslim Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis alike, are wrong about Imran Khan.

I have been following Imran Khan since I was 7 years old. He came to my school in 1991 for his Cancer Hospital fund raising. I remember buying his fund-raising booklets and sold over 200 tickets (10 rupees each). Yes, I was just a 7-year-old boy who didn’t know much and was just mesmerised by Imran Khan’s amazing personality and charisma and probably by his Cricketing exploits. However, I kept following him until today. I don’t think I have watched or followed any other person alive or dead to this detail. I have watched hundreds upon hundreds of hours of his interviews, public speaking etc. I read his book, Pakistan – A Personal history cover to cover the day it was released on iTunes. Richard Dawkins is probably the second person I have studied the most after Imran Khan. When you study a person in so much detail, you can somewhat predict what they would say in a particular situation or on a particular issue. You can even predict their future evolution. So, let’s get into what common misunderstandings, misconceptions or simply downright false views people hold against Imran Khan.

Imran Khan was a playboy, liberal Muslim in his first 30 odd years of his life. He did become spiritual or more loosely speaking, religious, when his mother died by cancer. I didn’t have to read his book to find that out although it is mentioned in great detail on how he went from a Western playboy to a Pakistani born again Muslim. He built a cancer hospital where his aim was to treat over 70% of the people without any cost, yes, it’s one of its kind privately run charity hospital in the entire world. Some say he got motivation from it after becoming a Muslim, my personal analysis is he got the motivation of it after seeing his mother suffer from cancer. Despite all odds, he succeeded. I remember in the 90s, die-hard fans of Imran Khan like my mother and myself wanted him to come into politics to which he was reluctant at the start however he stepped into politics, the dirty business of Pakistan in the 90s. He faced all kind of typical dirty mudslinging slanderous politics from the opposition especially Nawaz Sharif. Imran’s then wife Jemima Khan had to go back to England because they tried to arrest her on trumped up charges of smuggling antique tiles. Those tiles were later found to be your ordinary ceramic tiles that are still hanging at his house. He was also accused by the religious parties of being a Jewish agent, a title all liberal Pakistanis have to face something I am personally a victim of. Despite of all of that he stood firm and fought the political despots of Pakistan for the next 22 years.

“IMRAN KHAN IS AN ISLAMIST”

Most ex-Muslims I have interacted with hate Imran Khan as they think he is an Islamist. Although, I would acknowledge Imran is a Muslim but by no means he is an Islamist. He is a typical Pakistani Muslim who looks at the watered down, so called beautiful tenants of Islam while ignoring the bad aspects of it. Ex Muslims think that the biggest problem of Pakistan is Islam. I also think Islam is a huge problem of Pakistan in the long run but by no means it is the biggest problem of Pakistan in the short term. By short term I mean the next 15-20 years. Pakistan’s biggest problems are lack of education, health, corruption, failure of institutes, crippling economy. Islam is the ideological problem of Pakistan, although sooner its gone, better it would be for the Pakistan that I want but I am sensible enough to acknowledge it is not the biggest and the immediate problem of Pakistan.

Throughout history we can see religions don’t go away by suppression or force. Atheism was the official position of the Soviet Union for 80 odd years, yet orthodox Christianity came back as soon as the Soviet Union fell. This is despite of the iron fisted rule of the soviet establishment on its people. Is this what ex-Muslims want? Imran Khan in one of his interviews even said he doesn’t even support capital punishment, wow, that is some Islamist. He has never publicly condemned the religious minorities of Pakistan. He has never condemned or made statements against women or LGBTQ community. That is some Islamist isn’t it?

Now, where does this charge of him being an Islamist come from then? Imran Khan is a classical liberal who believes a war never solves an ideological problem. His consistent view since 2001 terror attacks has been that you cannot get rid of Islamic extremism by bombing them. For this ideological position, he was labelled a Taliban Khan, an outrageous claim. This is a kind of a view even I will hold being an atheist and a critic of Islam. Which is why I often get called a closeted Muslim performing Taqia by the right-wing Indians. You can see how absurd this claim is. Bombing the little villages in Pakistan’s tribal areas or Afghanistan will not get rid of the Islamic terrorists, if anything it will give rise to them. The 17 year old war is testament to that fact, terrorists are still heavily active in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Unless you can come up with a magical weapon that will only kill those who hold Jihadi views or the ones who are likely to hold the jihadi views in the future, you will never be able to get rid of these terrorists through warfare. Agree or disagree, this has been Imran Khan’s consistent view however this DOES NOT make him an Islamist otherwise I might be one too.

“IMRAN KHAN SUPPORTS BLASPHEMY LAWS”

It is true he doesn’t explicitly condemn blasphemy laws but as per my expectations, I know what his true views on blasphemy laws are. In his interview with Mehdi Hassan, one can draw a clear understanding of what those views are, link is in the description. In short, he basically spoke against the blasphemy laws and said Pakistan is not ready for an overnight change in the blasphemy laws. No sane ex-Muslim or a liberal of Pakistan would disagree with that. We all know what happened to Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab in 2011. The guy barely said that we need to LOOK at the blasphemy laws. This was enough for his own bodyguard to put 22 bullets in him. The killer gave rise to an extremist Islamist party called “Labaik Ya Rasool Allah”. This is what we are dealing with. Any drastic change in Pakistan’s blasphemy laws will either result in your assassination or will give rise to an extreme Islamist movement. That is not how we are ought to deal with this issue and Imran Khan understands that. Even this hero of ex-Muslims Jibran Nasir who also happens to be my hero too, doesn’t condemn the blasphemy laws because he knows this will get you a one-way ticket out of this planet.

So how do we get rid of the blasphemy laws and this influence of Islam in Pakistan. As I said with the soviet example, you cannot do it by force. This transition will only come from the slow evolution of the Pakistani society. We know throughout the world, religion somehow disappears or at least becomes irrelevant in the societies that get education and modern luxuries of life. This is not going to happen overnight in Pakistan and this is certainly not going to happen if Pakistanis keep putting corrupt leaders in power like Sharifs or Zardaris. You need an honest politician, even though he is a Muslim at heart. Pakistan is already a very non-Islamised society. Ordinary people of Pakistan don’t know about Islam and don’t even care about it. They do however, express their Muslim hood vehemently. Being Muslim is synonymous with being good in Pakistan. Sort of like the bible belt in America. People go about their daily business yet the bring Allah or Muhammad in every second sentence or so. This is it. Yes, there are some extreme right-wing parties who have followers I am not entirely comfortable with but by no means they are anywhere near the majority. The latest elections results are evidence of that as the religious parties got some of the lowest representation in the national assembly. There are a few other examples Pakistani liberals bring up in defence of their claim against Imran Khan which I don’t have time to discuss however I have solid reasons to deny those claims.

To conclude this part, Imran Khan is NOT an Islamist as an Islamist will not hold the below beliefs

1: He is not in favour of death penalty

2: He is anti-war

3: He speaks in favour of the religious minorities

4: He speaks about liberating women

5: He has not said anything against the LGBTQ community.

6: In his own words, he is more ideologically in line with Tariq Ali, a Pakistani atheist intellectual living in England.

To expect Imran Khan to speak against blasphemy is like expecting a US president to profess his atheism. Barack Obama who is rumoured to be an atheist would often bring up God in his speeches because he knew it was not feasible to express his lack of belief in God in the current US political environment. Imran is not an atheist but he is not an Islamist, he will be signing his own death sentence, both politically and literally, for him to take on the religious establishment of Pakistan. Islamism will not go away from Pakistan by the overnight abolition of the blasphemy laws. If Imran is successful in reducing poverty from 50% down to 5% or even 10%, spreading education, improving the economy, giving the modern luxuries of life down to the masses of Pakistan only then more liberals will be born in Pakistan who will inherit the future Pakistan. Imran Khan will not secularise Pakistan but his actions today will pave the way for future liberal leaders who will make Pakistan a secular country.

“Imran Khan is a military puppet”

This is a view of Pakistani supporters of Nawaz Sharif and a lot of Indians. Indians however come at this conclusion for totally different reasons. This is a terribly absurd claim and anyone who is aware of Pakistani politics would not make this claim.

Yes, military is a huge player in Pakistani politics and have stakes in the survival of Pakistan. However strong military is, it cannot go inside the polling booths and stamp the ballot papers. Two of my aunties and an uncle have been inside the polling booths, counting and organising elections for the last four general elections. I have had detailed conversations with them to understand the voting process inside the polling stations. These votes are cast in the presence of the polling agents of the candidates who supervise the counting of the votes. Even in General Musharraf’s elections, no one was forced to vote a certain candidate nor the counting was manipulated. Military simply cannot manipulate the actual polling results.

Yes, military however, can influence the general atmosphere of the elections. In these 2018 elections, military did facilitate the arrest of Nawaz Sharif over his corruption. Military did facilitate the Pakistani judiciary to take action against Nawaz Sharif’s corruption and hence he was rightly convicted. This crippled Nawaz Sharif’s election campaign and as a result everyone was predicting Imran Khan’s win. So much so that I had bought bottles of Champaign two days prior to the elections to celebrate Imran Khan’s victory. Can you blame Imran Khan for Nawaz Sharif’s corruption? I would blame Imran Khan if he had sat down in secrecy with the military establishment and devised a plan for manipulating the polling results but that is an extravagant conspiracy theory and even the serious critics of Imran Khan wouldn’t accuse him of that. Was military wrong in going after Nawaz Sharif? I would argue no because when does one say enough is enough? How far one lets a corrupt political establishment flourish? If the institutions of Pakistan were not so rotten, military would not have had to put their hand of support on the shoulder of the judiciary of Pakistan.

For once, Imran Khan was at the right place at the right time and he took full advantage of it and I see nothing wrong with that.

Lastly, to the right-wing Indians who call Imran Khan a military puppet need to stop watching the Times Now. Most of the comments I have seen from these right-wing Indians show they have absolutely no understanding of the Pakistani political system. They need to stop blaming Pakistani military for everything. The mere fact that the vast Indian media supports Nawaz Sharif, says a lot about who is best for Pakistan. India would want a corrupt puppet Prime Minister in Pakistan who could be controlled by Narendra Modi. I have noticed a lot of Indians follow my page because they somehow enjoy I bashing Islam however when being an atheist, when I do the same to Hinduism, they get cranky. This is the same when it comes to Pakistan, they love it when I criticise Pakistan for its bad policies and they somehow think I would only say terrible things about Pakistan which makes them happy. I would NOT do that. I have a certain way of thinking and I follow my own principles and thought process. I could be wrong about a lot of things but I am not a politician, I don’t have to say popular things. I understand my comments and writings and videos upset a lot of Pakistanis and Muslims but that doesn’t mean I say those things to appease the Indians or anti-Muslim bigots. There are great things in Pakistan and there are some terrible ones too. Just like that I see great things in India and some terrible things too but I somehow attract the wrath of Indians when I criticise or point out the flaws in India as though I am only meant to flatter the Indians. I love India for its secular constitution and I look at it with envy and hope one day my country, Pakistan will learn something from India. I get great comments and messages from my liberal Indian followers and I would want them not to get mislead by these right wing Indian nationalists and Indian channels like Times Now.

Imran Khan is not a military puppet and even the critics of Imran Khan call him a maverick who can be a loose cannon. Imran Khan has repeatedly said that if military doesn’t let him do his job, he will resign and go to the public of Pakistan again, something what Turkish president Erdogan did.

This is all I have to say and I guess only time will tell but I am confident, Imran Khan is the best thing that has happened to Pakistan since the birth of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

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Comments (3)
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Afif Khaja
Afif Khaja

Let's hope you are right. From what I understand, Pakistanis are so fanatical in their religious beliefs that dissent and atheism would not be tolerated and that Imran has no way of removing the blasphemy laws without putting himself at risk. And then we call them 'moderate' Muslims. This is a pure contradiction in terms

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Harris Sultan
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