He’s now the Prime Minister of Pakistan and promising big changes, but I met him when he was just starting his journey into politics
#FlashBackFriday to that time I secured a personal interview with Imran Khan. Who? Exactly!
At the time I knew nothing about him and even less about cricket. As far as I was concerned that was that dreary sport that ruined television on the weekends and forced me to read books instead – well this was in the mid-1990s.
Fortunately the Managing Editor at the local newspaper I worked at, did know who he was, he even had a book he wanted him to autograph. Great, I thought, he can do the interview. Not so fast you junior reporter you, pictures were needed, and the Managing Ed had a plan.
‘You do the boring questions about his philanthropic work, and then whilst you’re taking pictures, I’ll do the rest of the interview about the interesting stuff.’ You know what, I was okay with that. So I read up a little about him.
Now for those of you that know the now 100-day old Prime Minister of Pakistan, this was a couple of years after he had taken Pakistan to a famous World Cup Victory, and soon after he had fulfilled his dream of creating a free cancer hospital in memory of his mother. He was also about to give up his full-on Playboy lifestyle for his first marriage to Jemima Goldsmith.
Now I’m no Imran Khan biographer, but knowing what I know now, it seems to me that this was actually a pivotal and significant period in Khan’s life that saw him transition from world famous, jet-set friend of international superstars, to conscientious and concerned citizen of a country that he felt he could genuinely work for the betterment of.
So we turned up at a very flamboyant split-level South Kensington bachelor pad with all the flashy trimmings, to meet, not a boisterous spoilt superstar that might have wanted us out as soon as possible because had to party that evening, but someone rather different.
Instead there was a contemplative and self-examining individual who was clearly in the process of re-evaluating his goals and redefining his direction in life.
So it was rather embarrassing to me in some respects, that whilst we found him to be extremely talkative and animated regarding his charity work, his interest in entering politics, and he’s inquisitive reborn fascination in religion and his own relationship with God, he easily lost interest and was quite dismissive when the questions turned to sport, cricket and his glamorous lifestyle.
At the time I thought him rather arrogant, but it later occurred to me that it would be fairer to say he was aloof and was mentally tied up in thoughts of making this extraordinary transformation from Playboy to Prime Minister – which admittedly took him nearly a quarter of a century to actually accomplish.
Nonetheless, having listened to him talk, and having seen his single-minded focus, frankly I always knew, that if he lived long enough, he would accomplish his ultimate aim to take the top job in Pakistan. He’s not a by-halves man, that was clear, and he had the focus, determination and self-confidence that all successful sportspeople display.
At least my Managing Editor did get his book autographed, and I got my photos, though we didn’t manage to get any pictures of us with him, because frankly he did want us out of there as soon as possible. Not, however, because he wanted to rush over to Annabel’s, but probably to dive into the large volumes of books clearly evident in his study, though with the Rolling Stones and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan blasting on his sound system, judging by his music collection!
Side Note: Considering his success with the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, and the fact that everyone in Pakistan wants their kids to become doctors, PM Khan might want to consider focusing on investing in encouraging medical tourism in the country. It could also help to stop the brain-drain to the US and Europe and bring much-needed money into the country. Just my two-pence worth.