The UN General Assembly 2019 will be playing host to Prime Minister Imran Khan very soon. However, the public already had a teaser of what’s to come at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York where PMIK was in the house, and Richard Hass (President of the Council) initiated the discussion. All this, to set the scene for what’s to come in the week ahead. With Modi’s US rally behind us, and IK’s UN address approaching ahead, this was an ice-breaker for journalists and PM Imran Khan, and the world at large.
Here are a few highlights from the discussion that marked poignant moments to pause and reflect, as well as some precious moments of laughter.
1. “There Is Only One Islam.”
Our Prime Minister is very clear on the religious perspective, and the fact that he chooses to highlight his beliefs on an international forum, without flinching, is perhaps praiseworthy for many modern Pakistanis who try hard to ‘keep religion out of politics.’ NO, says PMIK, we will talk about Religion, but we will do it right! So here goes:
“OK. First, let me clear one thing: there is only one Islam. There’s no such thing as moderate Islam or radical Islam … There is only one Islam. Islam, like all human communities, has its radicals, majority moderates, and then of course some lunatics who—every human society has it. You might have your racists. When I first went to England there were these skinheads who would beat up people because of the color of their skin. So there is only one Islam, and the Islam we follow is the Islam of prophet Mohammed.”This, in reply to ‘How to progress towards a Moderate Islam’.
2. “What would you do if you were in my position? You would have probably had a heart attack by now. ”
In between the intense rhetoric, he hasn’t lost his sense of humour. (A smart way to dodge a tricky question, if we may say so, humour always works, where all else fails). And we’re hoping that’s what takes him through the rest of the week.
We are worried about what would happen with Iran and Saudi Arabia, the United States. That’s the other border. So one border Iran, the other Afghanistan, and now with India. I think I’ve got enough on my plate right now. Wouldn’t you say, Richard? What would you do if you were in my position? You would have probably had a heart attack by now.This, in reply to a question on China’s human rights abuses.
3. “Listen, the only reason I can cope with these pressures is that…I don’t know if you understand cricket”.
And then there’s the Cricket Example! It always works, and it seems to be helping him bat out those questions too. Foreign journalists can be tricky, but he has his captain’s hat on!
Imagine, you’re walking out on a cricket field, there are ninety thousand people in the stadium. You walk seventy yards down into the middle of the pitch. And the worry that you can be out first ball and you will have to walk all the way back with ninety thousand people. So that takes character. It builds. So you are able to play under pressure once you cope with that. And that’s the only way I have coped. And Richard, you would not have been able to. I’m telling you … Golf is a piece of cake compared to this!This, on managing border relationships with ‘neighbours’.
4. “And if I could order people around, … unfortunately, I can’t do that in Pakistan”.
And here comes the ‘dil ki baat’ … you’re not captain anymore, but you are Prime Minsister. Hmmm, aren’t you SUPPOSED to order people around?
I don’t have unfortunately, the Chinese model. And if I could order people around and I could get — I could get people out of poverty. Not just that, the way they’ve tackled corruption, unfortunately I can’t do that in Pakistan. Four hundred and fifty ministerial level people in the last five years have been put into jail on corruption. I mean, I wish I could do that in my country.This, on the trade offs that Chinese investment means to Pakistan
5. “If you see what has happened in India in the last six years, it is frightening for some of us.”
And now he says the dil ki baat of many Pakistanis. And we hear him!
I have known India. I have had love and respect from Indian in fan form, because India loves cricket, more than any other Pakistani. I’m more worried about India right now than probably even Pakistan, because India is not heading in the right direction. It’s not the India I know of Gandhi and Nehru … It is this ideology that has taken over India of Hindu supremacy. This is the ideology that assassinated Gandhi.This, on how he can reach out to India on Twitter
And we leave you with this one … this was GOLD.
“The Pakistani Army, ISI, trained al-Qaida and all these troops to fight in Afghanistan. There were always links between—there had to be links, because they trained them … after 9/11, when we did a 180-degree turn and went after those groups, you know, not everyone agreed. Within the army people didn’t agree with us … there were more insider attacks in Pakistan. General Musharraf, there were two attacks on him—suicide attacks on him—which were insider from within the army. “
Whatever happens at the UN General Assembly 2019, Imran Khan has had the courage to speak his mind. He might be wrong at times, he might have had to eat his words, (many times), as the media, his opponents and we, the people have witnessed time and again. BUT, he is sincere, he is fighting for a cause that we all believe in, and he’s not holding back. So let’s give him a hearing because, before the world starts listening, WE need to listen to him. Once we believe in him, the world might too … One day!
Till then, he will have to try and order people around, in a democracy that preaches Islam, the only Islam there is; not radical, and not moderate.
Will he clean bowl them at the UN General Assembly 2019? Perhaps not this time, but he might get pretty close!