In the 1990s, Imran Khan was on top of the world. The Oxford-educated cricket player courted supermodels, married a British heiress, hung out with Princess Diana and even captained Pakistan to its only Cricket World Cup victory in 1992. And now after two decades of competition in a new arena, the former international sex symbol may soon be on top of Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state home to more than 200 million people, as its next prime minister of pakistan 2018.On Wednesday, with heavy turnout, tens of millions voted in a nationwide election marred by widespread allegations of election fraud and military interference as well as outbreaks of violence, including an explosion outside a ballot station in Quetta that killed more than two dozen. Initial results suggest that Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won more votes than the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the party that has ruled the country for the past five years. Even if PTI does not end up with a majority, Khan will be in the driver’s seat to form a coalition government.
British model and actress Elizabeth Hurley and Imran Khan during their 2006 visit to Pakistan after an earthquake one year earlier killed more than 75,000 people.
Part of the strong turnout has been driven by Khan’s celebrity and promise of change. His face appears on signs, banners and flags nationwide. In more than two decades in politics, Khan has surfed a Donald Trump–like transition from a celebrity entertainer with a decadent past into a renegade populist conservative, one who has embraced pious Islam and been strongly critical of the U.S.
There is absolutely no chance of him governing independently of the army.
C. Christine Fair, Georgetown University
Khan has deployed his charisma and celebrity to rail against corruption — his opponent and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was jailed for 10 years on corruption charges. Posing as the change candidate for “new Pakistan,” Khan is trying to succeed in a nation that has been ruled for decades by its military or by two political dynasties, and in which no prime minister has ever completed his or her entire five-year term.
Still, there remain several concerns about a Prime Minister Imran Khan. Born into an affluent family in Lahore, Khan, 65, has a degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford. But he has never held national office and for most of his political career he labored in the wilderness, his party managing to govern only the sparsely populated Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. He’s even been dubbed “Imran Khan’t.” and is the Prime Minister of Pakistan 2018.