From Cricket God to Friend of Islamists – Meet the World’s Newest Leader

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Imran Khan and Donald Trump caricatures play cricket.
Imran Khan and Donald Trump caricatures play cricket.

Former Pakistani cricket god Imran Khan will most likely be sworn in as the country’s prime minister in the next couple of weeks. As we explained before last week’s elections, Khan already earned himself the epithet Taliban Khan. Here are 10 things you need to know about the world’s soon-to-be newest leader.

  1. India fears Khan, announcing within hours of his election that New Delhi is “prepared for any contingency and will not accept any misadventure by Pakistan.” Khan argued that people who live in the “tribal areas” are illiterate and as a result could hardly attack American targets.
  2. Khan expressed sympathy for the Taliban in Afghanistan even suggesting they open an office in his country. He defended the Taliban’s justice system in an interview with the BBC’s Hard Talk in 2018.
  3. He is supportive of Islamist mujahideen fighting against India in Kashmir. His party went on the offensive against India’s leader adopting the slogan: “Any friend of Modi’s is a traitor.”
  4. He opposes much of the U.S. war on terror. “I have no idea who is advising the CIA…It is so obviously counter-productive,” he said challenging the U.S. policy of using drones to take out terrorists.
  5. When the U.S. recently said it was suspending security aid to Pakistan until Islamabad dealt with specified terror elements, Khan responded by calling to “immediately remove excessive U.S. diplomatic, nondiplomatic, and intelligence personnel from Pakistan.”
  6. Almost every other party contending the July 2018 ballot accused Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party of foul play. The European Union election observer mission pointed to “a lack of equal opportunity” and “systematic attempts to undermine the ruling party” prior to the vote.
  7. When Khan married his third wife in February, he had never even caught a glimpse of her face. “The only idea I had of what she looked like came from an old photograph I had seen in her house,” he told the Daily Mail.
  8. Khan’s party immediately announced it would strengthen Pakistan’s relations with China. “We will strengthen and improve our relations with China. We want to work towards success of CPEC,” the PTI tweeted.
  9. The difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim is not merely a theological one – it is a difference of a fundamental attitude towards life,” he wrote in Pakistan: A Personal History.
  10. After years of anti-American rhetoric, ”even if (Khan) starts toning down his rhetoric, I don’t know if he can send any signals to make Washington hopeful,” said Sameer Lalwani, co-director of the South Asia program at the Stimson Center think-tank.



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