Imran Khan (born November 25, 1952, Lahore, Pakistan), Pakistani cricket player, politician, philanthropist, and Pakistani prime minister (2018) Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi, who became a national hero by leading Pakistan’s national team to a 1992 Cricket World Cup victory and later entered politics as a critic of Pakistan’s government corruption.

Khan was born in Lahore into a wealthy Pashtun family and was educated at prestigious schools in Pakistan and the United Kingdom, including Worcester Royal Grammar School and Lahore Aitchison College. His family included several prominent cricket players, including two older cousins, Javed Burki and Majid Khan, both of whom served as captains of the Pakistani national team. In his youth, Imran Khan played cricket in Pakistan and the United Kingdom and started playing at the University of Oxford while studying philosophy, politics and economics. In 1971, Khan played his first game for Pakistan’s national team, but only after graduating from Oxford in 1976 did he take a permanent spot in the team.

Khan distinguished himself as an excellent bowler and all-rounder at the beginning of the 1980s, and he was elected captain of the Pakistani team in 1982. In Pakistan and England, Khan’s athletic ability and good looks made him a star, and his frequent appearances at trendy London nightclubs provided the British tabloid press with fodder. In 1992, when he led the Pakistani team to its first World Cup win, beating England in the final, Khan achieved his greatest athletic achievement. The same year, he retired, having earned a reputation as one of history’s greatest cricket players.

Khan stayed in the public eye as a philanthropist after 1992. He underwent a religious awakening, accepting and shedding his earlier playboy persona of Sufi mysticism. Khan served as the primary fund-raiser for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, a specialized cancer hospital in Lahore that opened in 1994, in one of his philanthropic efforts. The hospital was named after Khan’s mother who died in 1985 from cancer.

Khan became a vocal critic of government mismanagement and corruption in Pakistan after his retirement from cricket. In 1996, he founded Tehreek-e-Insaf (Justice Movement), his own political party. The newly formed party received less than 1 percent of the vote in the national elections held the following year and failed to gain any seats in the National Assembly, although it did marginally better in the 2002 elections, capturing a single seat that Khan filled. Khan argued that voting rigging was to blame for the poor vote totals of his faction. Khan was among a group of lawmakers who resigned from the National Assembly in October 2007 and protested against Pres. The candidacy of Pervez Musharraf in the forthcoming presidential election. In November, during a crackdown against opponents of Musharraf, who had proclaimed a state of emergency, Khan was briefly imprisoned. In order to protest Musharraf’s rule, Tehreek-e-Insaf condemned the state of emergency, which ended in mid-December, and boycotted the 2008 national elections.

Despite Tehreek-e-election Insaf’s struggles, Khan’s populist positions have found support, especially among young people. He continued his criticism of corruption and economic disparity in Pakistan and opposed the cooperation of the Pakistani government with the United States to fight militants near the border with Afghanistan. He also launched broadsides against the political and economic elites of Pakistan, whom he accused of being Westernized and being out of contact with the religious and cultural norms of Pakistan.

Warrior Race: A Journey through the Land of the Tribal Pathans (1993) and Pakistan: A Personal History were among Khan’s writings (2011). Khan and his party attracted huge crowds at rallies in the months leading up to the legislative elections scheduled for 2013, attracting the support of many veteran politicians from Pakistani parties. Evidence of the rising political fortunes of Khan came in the form of a 2012 opinion poll that found him to be Pakistan’s most influential political figure.

Khan injured his head and back just days before the May 2013 legislative elections when he dropped from a platform at a campaign rally. Hours later, he appeared from his hospital bed on television to make a final pitch to voters. The elections recorded the highest total yet for Tehreek-e-Insaf, but the party still won less than half of the seats won by Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). The PML-N was accused by Khan of manipulating the elections. He and other opposition leaders led four months of demonstrations in late 2014 in order to persuade Sharif to step down after his calls for an investigation went unmet. The protests failed to oust Sharif, but when the Panama Papers linked his family to offshore holdings, allegations of corruption were intensified. In late 2016, Khan planned a new series of demonstrations but called them off at the last minute after the Supreme Court decided to open an inquiry. In 2017, the inquiry disqualified Sharif from holding public office, and he was required to resign. Khan, meanwhile, was also disclosed to have had offshore holdings but was not disqualified by the Supreme Court in a separate case.

The following year in July 2018, elections were held. Khan ran on an anti-corruption and poverty platform, even as he had to fend off allegations that he was too comfortable with the military establishment. A majority of seats in the National Assembly were won by Tehreek-e-Insaf, allowing Khan to seek an alliance with independent parliamentary members. On August 18, he became prime minister.

Khan faced a mounting balance-of-payments crisis as prime minister. In recent years, although the economy has been experiencing growth, imports and debt commitments have skyrocketed, especially due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative. The situation escalated only weeks into his term as prime minister when the U.S. withheld $300 million in pledged military assistance, saying that Pakistan had not done enough to stem terrorism. First, Khan tried to pursue foreign assistance from “friendly countries”; since a dozen previous International Monetary Fund packages had failed to fix Pakistan’s macroeconomic problems, widespread fatigue with the IMF was expressed in his avoidance of an IMF bailout. However after it was unable to receive foreign assistance from other countries on favorable terms, Pakistan submitted an IMF request for emergency lending. He managed to obtain foreign assistance from other sources and later obtained investment commitments from China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Aside from courting international aid, Khan oversaw many important changes in foreign ties with Pakistan. The nation has successfully taken the Taliban into talks with the United States, strengthening ties with the country and neighboring Afghanistan. In February 2019, India conducted an airstrike in Pakistan for the first time in five decades in a show of force against rebels in Kashmir, who had recently staged a suicide attack killing 40 Indian security forces, raising fears of a new war between the two countries. Pakistan downplayed the effect and seemed to keep the situation from worsening. Pakistan shot down two fighter jets and captured a pilot when India entered Pakistan’s airspace again but returned the pilot to India soon afterward. Khan carried out a crackdown on militants following the attack, issuing arrests, closing a large number of religious schools, and pledging to amend current laws to match international standards.

 

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