Islamabad: As Pakistan's opposition continues to press for the exit of President Asif Ali Zardari-led civilian government due to the escalating crisis in the country, there is just one thing that every political party in the country seems to agree on - that there will be no military coup.
Speaking exclusively to NDTV's Barkha Dutt in Islamabad, opposition leader and Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan also joined the chorus and said, "The age of martial law in Pakistan is now permanently over." The army, he says, realizes that people will not accept this anymore.
Here's the full transcript of the interview:
NDTV: The world is willing to watch what happens in Pakistan next, a country that seems to be in internal turmoil, where all the three major institutions - the Parliament, the judiciary and the military seem to be locked into some kind of mortal combat. As the politics in Pakistan unfolds, somebody who's being watched very closely - believed to have tapped into a mode of public discontent - is Imran Khan, who in his own words, has said to us repeatedly that his time has now come. We're sitting here, in his house in Islamabad. Imran, you have every reason to smile today, don't you?
Imran Khan: Yes. Not just because my party is...
NDTV: On the ascendance...
Imran Khan: And is now, the number one party and has the biggest public support, but because I think our democracy has evolved. In this entire crises, as you just mentioned in your opening remarks, what has come out is that, the army is no longer prepared to come out in the open.
NDTV: The age of the coup is over, in a sense.
Imran Khan: The age of martial law is over, because the Memogate scandal is such a shameful scandal, that if ever the army would have intervened, it would have been then. Because it's effectively a President asking the United States to come and help him get rid of the army hierarchy so that he could serve them better. That's, in effect, the Memogate. And normally, the army would have, that would have been enough to take over. I mean, as it is, there is public outrage against that and so you would've had the public backing. But, Pakistan has moved on and I think that the army realises now that people are not going to accept military takeovers anymore. At the same time, the Supreme Court has taken a stand. Finally, the Supreme Court, for the first time in Pakistan you're seeing the court taking on the powerful. Normally, the Supreme Court has been a part of the Executive and taken orders from the government literally. First time, the Supreme Court is challenging the most powerful people in this country and challenging the corruption cases. And so, we have a vibrant media, which is a third pillar, and we have a very politically-aware public.
NDTV: But, here is the catch in your argument. And that catch is, the supporters of this government, the sympathizers of this government and many liberal voices in Pakistan are saying that this is a test case for democracy, that an elected government should be allowed to complete its tenure, and why is the Opposition pushing for an early election?
Imran Khan: Well, in normal circumstances I would agree. But now what is this government trying to do? It's trying to demolish an independent Supreme Court. Are early elections going to destroy our democracy? Or, if the independent judiciary is destroyed, would that destroy our democracy? Surely, the third world is third world because they do not have an independent justice system; and criminals come in to power to loot the country and they have no checks and balances. Pakistan, as I said, has moved on. First time, we've had an independent Supreme Court. Now, if this government takes on the Supreme Court just so that it can protect Asif Zardari's corruption of billions of dollars, I'm afraid that if you stand, if people stand by the judiciary and it wins, then our democracy wins. If our judiciary loses, our democracy loses.
NDTV: What do you say to those voices in your country who are suggesting that in some ways, the judiciary and the military today are on the same side in this debate?
Imran Khan: I don't know if there is any indication of that, but all I know is that the Supreme Court has been very lenient with this government. I mean the day the NRO was struck down - an NRO brokered by the Bush Administration - which Condoleezza Rice writes in her book, that she helped waive off all corruption cases of Benazir and 8,000 people. Corruption cases of over a trillion rupees were waived off. Would they do that in their own countries? Would they do this? Allow criminals to be given an amnesty? And then allow them to contest elections? And then the biggest crook becomes the President? Would they allow that?
NDTV: Their argument, of course, is that these were political cases. They were acts of vendetta, and you needed the amnesty to create a democracy movement. That's their argument.
Imran Khan: Absolute nonsense. They destroyed our democracy by that NRO election. Nowhere in the western world are criminals allowed to contest elections. These were not political cases; Asif Ali Zardari's case was in the Swiss courts. He was already convicted; he was on appeal. All these cases were withdrawn, thanks to the Americans, because they wanted a puppet government here, which would bomb its own people. And so, when Musharraf was weakening, they got them together, as Condoleezza Rice so shamefully, but triumphantly, says in her book. And so, we got this government of crooks. And the Supreme Court, whenever it challenged them, the government took the Supreme Court on. Almost making out that if the Supreme Court took on the crooked politicians, democracy was at stake. So, hiding behind democracy, they kept looting the country. Never have we had so much corruption in this country as today. And, so therefore, whoever says that the Army is behind it, I think that, if anything, the Supreme Court has been very lenient because they allowed them to go on plundering this country. There's been one scam after another. And yet, the country has helplessly been looking at the Supreme Court to take action. And this government has stonewalled the Supreme Court. So, finally, the Supreme Court has passed a contempt notice on the Prime Minister and everyone is watching if the government tries to now defy the Supreme Court, they won't know what hit them. Because my party and the tsunami will be in the streets and they won't be able to contain it.
NDTV: What about the fact that on the same day that the Prime Minister gets this contempt notice, he also wins the trust vote that asserts the supremacy of Parliament. Does that change the game?
Imran Khan: This Parliament is a coalition of crooks.
NDTV: They're elected.
Imran Khan: If you allow criminals to fight, anywhere in the world they'll get elected. The reason that democracy has survived in the western world is that no criminal is allowed to contest elections. Their papers are rejected. But if you allow criminals, if I'm a criminal and I have amassed billions of rupees, how can a decent candidate compete against me? If I have criminal gangs with me holding Kalashnikovs, I'll terrorise everyone and get votes. So a democracy only, only elections bring, help democracy if there's rule of law. So, when you have one law for the powerful crooks and another for the common people, they're always going to get into power. So this coalition of crooks, they've all got a share of the pie. They're all benefiting from this corrupt system; while the country is suffering, poor people are getting poorer. Never have we had so much poverty, unemployment, inflation. No gas, no electricity, and these guys are all, sort of, getting together to protect their corruption. No one, no one, pays any attention to this Parliament.
NDTV: I was just going to say that we're sitting here talking to you outside this beautiful home because there is no electricity, even in Imran Khan's home. Why are politicians not talking about these issues? Why is it such a rhetorical campaign about everything else here in Pakistan except the economy?
Imran Khan: No, Barkha, we do talk about it. We've had demonstrations of electricity and gas shortages. But, unfortunately, everyday a new issue comes along. You wake up and there is another issue. Another scam, you know, rental power scam, then you wake up and there is some fertilizer scam of billions of rupees. Therefore, you know, you don't know what to concentrate on. People were hoping that this government would finally leave. People are sick of this government and waiting for them to go. But this is an issue. What is in the Supreme Court? The whole country is now waiting, expecting the Supreme Court to dispense justice.
NDTV: Are you looking for an early election?
Imran Khan: Well, for our party, obviously. I mean, if the government lasts till the elections, it's of great benefit to us because we're gaining every day.
NDTV: So you wouldn't want an early election?
Imran Khan: No, from our point of view, I mean Tehreek-e-Insaf point of view. But from Pakistan's point of view, the sooner the elections, the better. The sooner we get rid of this coalition of crooks, the better we can start rebuilding this country.
NDTV: You don't buy the argument that this is about the supremacy of Parliament, and this is about preserving that democratic supremacy?
Imran Khan: In Pakistan's democracy, it's supremacy of the Constitution. Parliament is sovereign, but the Constitution is supreme. So what this government is doing is defying the Constitution. By standing up to, by defying the orders of the Supreme Court, it is actually going against the Constitution. In fact, there are about 18 judgments of the Supreme Court this government has defied so far.
NDTV: I want to ask you, there are those who say Imran Khan's being backed by the Pakistani army. I read this all the time in the Pakistani media.
Imran Khan: Well, this is what all the politicians are petrified of. Because they don't know what's happened; how come this tsunami has suddenly built up? But if the Army has now helped us, then surely it must be manipulating the Pew polls, which are American opinion polls where Tehreek-e-Insaf has been number one for six months now. YouGov polls in England; there we've been number one. All the polls which are conducted in Pakistan, we're the number one party now. So surely, they must be manipulating that. And then, a quarter of million people turn up in Lahore, and a quarter of a million in Karachi. General Musharraf, when he was the head of the ISI and the army, he couldn't pull a miniscule crowd compared to that. Forget about the passion in the crowd. Aren't they overestimating the army?
NDTV: General Musharraf, since you have mentioned him, is now looking to be part of your alliance.
Imran Khan: Well, unfortunately, I mean it is kind of him to want to be a part of our alliance but we can't accept him. Simply because the NRO the reason why these criminals are sitting, this Asif Zardari, is because of General Musharraf. A deal brokered between him and...
NDTV: ...It was deal signed when he...
Imran Khan: ...and secondly, the mess in Balochistan. The assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti, it's because of Musharraf. The Lal Masjid, where these madrassa students were all incinerated, and that's when really extremism rose in Pakistan and all of that is blamed on him; and then the War on Terror where forty thousand people have died. How can we have an alliance with him?
NDTV: So you will have nothing to do with him?
Imran Khan: Absolutely not. And my advice to him is, he shouldn't come to Pakistan because his life would be in danger.
NDTV: Why do you think that?
Imran Khan: Because the people who are, look at the Balochis. They have already; the son of Nawab Akbar Bugti has already put a ransom on Musharraf's head. And don't forget the people in the tribal areas, who believe in blood vendettas, whose near and dear ones have been killed. They blame it on him.
NDTV: But, you know, when I was interviewing him in London a couple of months ago, he said that you were the best of the available options. But he also said that, "Imran thinks that running Pakistan is like being the captain of a cricket team".
Imran Khan: Well, time will tell whether the captain of a cricket team does a better job with Pakistan or the army chief who took over and left this mess.
NDTV: So you will have nothing to do with him?
Imran Khan: No, we cannot have any alliance with General Musharraf. Actually, we have no plans of any alliances. We will fight alone.
NDTV: But if you do not get the numbers, you will need help from somebody. You may?
Imran Khan: I am confident that - I have been saying this before - that we will sweep this election. And I am confident because I know I am amongst the people. People have changed. This is a new Pakistan. And the youth in Pakistan, which is 70% of the population, they have already made up their minds. They are not making up their minds; they have made up their minds. Just go to any university, college and you will know where the youth stands. And youth and women are always in the forefront of the change. And this is where Tehreek-e-Insaf is way ahead of all the other parties. So why would we want alliance with those parties which represent the status quo? Which is all of them sitting in power. All of them have benefited from this corrupt system and most of them, in fact all their leaders, have massive corruption cases against them. Why would I want alliance with them? I'd much rather, if I don't get the numbers, sit in the Opposition and be a proper Opposition in Pakistan, than form a coalition with these crooks.
NDTV: But tell me, what do you make of the very public spat between the civilian government and the military that began with the Memogate controversy? It's quite rare to see that in Pakistan.
Imran Khan: Well, but these are exceptional circumstances. As I said, the accusation against Asif Zardari, of having asked the Americans help to get rid of the top military brass so that he could have his pliant officers there, so that he could serve them better.
NDTV: The alleged memo says that they feared a military takeover after Osama bin Laden was killed.
Imran Khan: Yes, and that's why he wanted to get rid of the top brass. So, would you be surprised if the army was angry? The people are angry in Pakistan. Everyone in Pakistan thought this was asking Americans to help them against the army; it's a treasonable case.
NDTV: It's interesting that you say that it's a treasonable case because the government here is planning to file treason charges against Mansoor Ijaz, as and when he comes to Pakistan, because they are saying that he's made statements in the past that he was responsible and involved in toppling Benazir Bhutto's government.
Imran Khan: Well, I am just giving you what the case is. It's sub judice and there is a Judicial Commission, which is now investigating. And I don't know what comes out of it. But if the allegation is true, it is quite shocking and the army has a right to be angry.
NDTV: Were you surprised that Mansoor Ijaz did not show up for his testimony?
Imran Khan: I do not have a very high opinion of Mansoor Ijaz. For me, he is a non-entity. I don't know why anyone took him seriously.
NDTV: But yet, you believe the authenticity of the memo that he is claiming?
Imran Khan: No, I am not saying that.
NDTV: You are not saying that?
Imran Khan: I am saying it is sub judice.
Imran Khan: I am saying the allegation is very serious.
NDTV: You said earlier that the age of an army takeover is over in Pakistan. Do you see this stand-off subsiding?
Imran Khan: No. I don't see. Whatever happens, I don't see a military takeover.
NDTV: So how does this play out? Because you know that the world is waiting to see. And what seems is that this is a country, it's a very dangerous part of the world right now, and it's got its institutions in collision with each other.
Imran Khan: I don't look at it like that. Eventually, what is the worst that can happen to this government? Early elections. Early elections will strengthen our democracy. My only fear is, if the government demolishes the Supreme Court, which they have made every effort. They have bribed lawyers; they have sort of tried to get the Supreme Court Bar Association pitted against the Supreme Court. They have done everything. But actually people have stood behind the Supreme Court. If you look at all the opinion polls, the Supreme Court is the most respected institution in Pakistan. So people are standing behind it. And this government, in order to protect the corruption of Asif Zardari and his cronies, is now trying to demolish it. So, if they win, if this government wins, that's where our democracy will be destroyed. That's when I see chaos. But if there are early elections, it will only strengthen our democracy.
Imran Khan: Who are these liberals? I want to know because if you look at our rallies, for me it was very satisfying because I have struggled for 15 years, but it was all cross-sections of society. It was girls coming in jeans. It was women coming from deeni madrassas, it was Urdu medium, English medium, the religious. All of them came. It's the only party in Karachi that does a rally and all sections of society come; the Pashtuns come and the Urdu speaking come and the Balochis, Sindhis. So it is a party that hopes to get all the country on one platform. I don't know whom you talk about. These liberals. I don't know these liberals, because these liberals back bombing of villages. They back drone attacks. I mean, I don't call them liberals. I call them fascists. In my book these people are fascists. They have criticised me because I opposed this War on Terror. I opposed this criminal bombing, aerial bombing of villages, women and children getting killed. And these people were applauding it. These are not liberals. This is the scum of Pakistan who call themselves liberals, who have brought this country to this stage. Because of them we have extremism in this country. When they look at these people who stand behind every American policy which allows this country to, all human rights being violated, people being picked up and disappeared, and they've applauded all that. These liberals, so called liberals, applauded the incineration, where they bombed this mosque when there were children and women in it, students in it. And these liberals were in the forefront. I don't call them liberals. I agree. I really think these are the scum of this country.
NDTV: They've called you anti-west. They've called you Taliban Khan in the past; they say you use religion to mobilize the masses. They are critical of the fact that for example, you have prayed on stage during your Jalsas. There has been some criticism in the Pakistani media of that.
Imran Khan: Okay, let's start one by one. They call me anti- western.
NDTV: And you're like an Oxford educated ...
Imran Khan: Number one, anti-western. What is west as geography? It's like being anti-Asian, anti- Australian. What is this nonsense? I have been anti-war on terror from day one and time has proven that, whatever I have said has proven to be correct. I opposed military actions; I always said there was a political solution. Today, Americans are talking to the Taliban; they've allowed an office to open in Qatar, they are trying to talk to the Taliban. Is that not what I was saying for eight years? That's why they call me pro-Taliban because I opposed military action.
NDTV: You said there should be a dialogue with the Taliban.
Imran Khan: Number two they talk about praying on stage. I pray five times a day. If I only prayed on the stage and not normally, then they should call me.
NDTV: But they are saying you are making that image a part of your politics, you are mixing religion with politics.
Imran Khan: Supposing I did pray on stage, am I not respecting the sentiments of my people? This is a Muslim country. Most of the people pray here. Am I not respecting them? If I am a politician, should I try and go against the sentiments of the people of Pakistan? And thirdly when they say I am using religion, I am only in politics. If I were not spiritual I would not be in politics. Spirituality makes you selfless. I have everything God would ever, whatever I want from The Almighty, I have. The only reason I have come into politics is I feel it's a responsibility because I have so much; I should try and do something for the people. I've built a hospital, I've built a university, I've done a lot of work in the floods, I have helped building villages. But, should we, people like me who have everything, all doors are open for me in the society. Should I sit back and watch my country being plundered by criminals and take the easy open? Or should I take them on? And it's my spirituality. It's the spirituality that tells you that you should be selfless. The more God gives you, the more he puts responsibility on you to do for other people. And so that's why I'm in politics. If I did not have faith in God, I would not be in politics.
NDTV: What about those in Pakistan or elsewhere who kill in the name of religion? You know you describe yourself as spiritual, I remember when we were discussing your memoirs and your former wife Jemima was moderating your book launch in England; she actually said it was too dangerous. She feared for your life to ask you where you stood on the blasphemy controversy in Pakistan, and I remember you told me that you have never supported killing in the name of religion, but you accepted her argument that it was too dangerous in Pakistan right now to have a debate on the issue.
Imran Khan: Okay, let's take one thing, one by one again. Religion, if it does not make you compassionate and just, every religion, every religion's basic message is that you become compassionate, selfless. You have to be compassionate to other human beings and in case of a Muslim, remember, it's Rabbana-Alim, Lord of all human beings; it's not Rabbana-Muslim, Lord of Muslims. So you have the responsibility to be compassionate to all human beings. So killing in the name of religion is a contradiction in terms. Number two, you have to be just. So as opposed to the animal kingdom where might is right, you have to be just in a humane society. So if these two things do not come inside your heart, then it means it's a false religion. You are using religion for other means and I'm talking about every religion. Now what you talked about what Jemima said, she is right. Pakistan society, thanks to this war on terror, is totally polarized now. One of my closest friends and one of the most enlightened muslin scholars, Javed Hamdi, he is in Malaysia today.
NDTV: Because he had to flee.
Imran Khan: Because he cannot even talk about his religious views in Pakistan, because such is the polarization in the society. Imams of mosques have been blown up in mosques for saying simple things like suicide bombing is Islamic. So in this society, thanks to this war on terror, our participation in the war, yes you have to be careful, you are treading a very thin line, you make one little slip and you, I don't know I said something and I had immediate statement from Taliban condemning it. So you have to be, it's a very polarized society. So at the moment, our effort should be to bring everyone together. You need reconciliation in the society, not further polarization by attacking people.
NDTV: But aren't you worried, aren't you depressed that Pakistan has become the kind of country also where the man who killed Salman Taseer, there weren't lawyers who were, I mean ready to prosecute him? He was garlanded in the Court.
Imran Khan: Yes, the reason for this polarization is this war on terror has spread this message that this is war against Islam. And let me tell you if Islam is threatened, there is going to be no limit of people willing to kill for protecting the religion. Therefore, you need a different approach and while this is depressing, what was most encouraging was my rallies, everyone came, religious people, westernised people, everyone came to the rally. Therefore, there is a chance of reconciling people, getting people together on one stage and this is really my hope, you know, that I become a bridge and get people together rather than polarize the society more.
NDTV: What does Imran Khan's ascendency mean for India? Because there are those who are concerned that you if you do come to power you will be a hardliner. We have seen many references to Kashmir in your rallies and on the other hand in India we sort of all know you, in a cricketing context. You have legions of fans, women still love you and then there is an Imran Khan, the politician, who is seen as a radical, who is seen as a conservative.
Imran Khan: So much confusion. On one hand, here I'm accused of being a Jewish lobby, which is the worst you can say.
NDTV: Because of your marriage?
Imran Khan: It is at one extreme and there is Taliban Khan on the other extreme. Why this confusion? Have you ever wondered why this confusion?
NDTV: You tell us. What does it mean for people in India who love you otherwise but are scared of your politics?
Imran Khan: Because people love putting people in stereotypes, because he is religious, he is rightist. Why? In my opinion someone who is religious, is spiritual, is going to be compassionate. A Leftist? For me, I'm closer to the left than right.
NDTV: You wrote in your book that you had two idols in university, Mick Jagger and Karl Marx. That's quite funny.
Imran Khan: In university, yes, Mick Jagger and Karl Marx. Even now I think I find someone like Tariq Ali who is not religious but who is a Leftist. I find my views are far closer to Tariq Ali than probably anyone else. So I don't fit in those stereotypes. I'm deeply spiritual. I lead my life with my faith but I'm totally leftist in my thinking, I'm anti-neo liberal economics, I think there should be compassion in the world, I believe in a welfare state. So they can't place me and secondly as far as India goes that is your question, I do believe that there has to be a resolution on Kashmir but I don't believe in any military solution, I don't believe in any militancy. I believe it should be politically, it should be done on the table. There should be a political roadmap. I do believe that Indian Army should not be there because in 20 years what it hasn't solved by six-seven hundred thousand Indian troops, it's not going to solve in the future too. I don't believe in the military solution.
NDTV: But are you tracking the changes, for example, on the Indian, on Jammu and Kashmir, as we call it? There have been elections. There have been Panchayat elections, huge turnouts, a reduction in militancy. The world has changed. And whatever you may criticise General Pervez Musharraf for, there was a four-point formula that he put on the table, that seems to have become the accepted template for going forward.
Imran Khan: Well, that was a positive. Yes, I agree with you. And I do believe that there has to be a political settlement and a move forward. Look, there needs to be a road map. And a political road map so there is some sort of a political solution which stops this, you know, tide of extremism and also helping the rightists on both sides of the border, who exploit the situation. And secondly, I believe in relations, normal relations, trade, everything, because really the sub-continent is suffering. We have a great opportunity. This is the fastest growing, probably, region in the world, China, India, and if Pakistan was stable and we had a decent relationship, if we lived as decent neighbours. We have a great opportunity of lifting people out of poverty in the whole sub-continent, which should be our main concern. We should be competing in alleviating poverty in both countries. That should be our goal. So, I am not a hardliner. I believe that when, Inshallah, our government comes to power, we will have a relationship based on truth. There will be no double games. Whatever will be said, whatever will be promised, will be upheld. There will be no cloak and dagger games and I would like that our intelligence would not be operating in either countries. Neither will we be blaming RAW for Balochistan and neither would India be blaming our agencies for any terrorism.
NDTV: Would you like to see more civilian control over the ISI and the military?
Imran Khan: I think that a Tehreek-e-Insaf government, you will find, will be different to all other governments. It will be a government, which will take responsibility for everything happening in Pakistan.
NDTV: Tell me this, because I know you come to Mumbai often, the shadow of 26/11 as India see a Hafiz Saeed saying all kinds of inflammatory things at his rallies. We see him being able to operate with impunity. What would you say to Indians? You have so many Indian friends and you love Mumbai. You come there so often.
Imran Khan: Look, Hafiz Saeed's case is in the Supreme Court. Everyone trusts the Supreme Court. You look at the polls today people are standing behind the Supreme Court. I always believe in the due process of law. If anyone is accused of anything you must put him through a court. I completely did not agree with this American killing of Osama bin Laden. I think they should have dealt with him the way they dealt with Saddam Hussein, because Saddam Hussein was tried and executed. But it did not have the same martyrdom thing, which Osama has had. I mean Osama is a martyr because of the way in which they killed him.
NDTV: You think he is a martyr here in Pakistan?
Imran Khan: Amongst various people he is a martyr. In the Muslim world you will find that amongst various people he is a martyr. The way to avoid that was to put him through a trial, accuse him. Look, civilised countries follow the due process of law.
NDTV: We are giving Ajmal Kasab a due process.
Imran Khan: Exactly, due process of law is always, it's cumbersome but the results are always good in the end. You actually lift, you fight these things through moral authority, not physical authority, not Guantanamo Bay, not Bagram Air Base. They only exacerbate the situation. So, whatever the situation with Hafiz Saeed, should be dealt through courts. Someone said, you know, you sent your representative in a rally where all the religious parties were there. Of course, we should send our representatives, because you want to engage people. You are a political party. If you don't engage them you marginalise them.
NDTV: But does that mean you endorse them? In a way aren't you legitimising their very, very radical, dangerous views?
Imran Khan: Tell me, today the Americans are engaging the Taliban now. They are allowing an office, as I said, to open in Qatar. They are engaging them. Does that mean they are endorsing their views? I mean, this is what always should have been done. Politicians believe in political settlements. You don't believe in marginalising people. You believe in bringing them in the mainstream. We were petrified when the BJP came to power, that here is an extreme party. But you found that the moment it came...
NDTV: A Vajpayee was the architect of a peace process with Pakistan.
Imran Khan: So, they moved towards the centre. Suddenly the rhetoric went. Even if you bring these people all in the mainstream, you develop a consensus where they have to come in to the middle, rather than marginalising them. And then the only option left is to then kill them. You send your army and you do military actions and you destroy your society.
NDTV: Let's end by talking a little bit about you and your personal journey; from being a cricketing superstar to being seen as a playboy, party boy, to now being seen as somebody who is spiritual, a very serious politician. Your commitment to politics has cost you personally in many ways. It cost you your marriage in many ways. You write about that quite candidly in your book.
Imran Khan: Yes. But I have to say that my spirituality hasn't made me into an angel, I am still a humble sinner.
NDTV: I thought you were going to say that I am still a playboy!
Imran Khan: No, a humble sinner. But spirituality is much more than that. It changes your direction in life. From being self-orientated, being a slave of the self, you actually become free of the self. It liberates you. It liberates you from two of the biggest prisons, chains. One is self, rather than be thinking of yourself you become selfless, and secondly it frees you from all your fears. The chain of fear, you know, that you are scared of doing things; you are scared you will be killed; you are scared of being humiliated. You break away those chains and actually you become liberated. You become a free soul. So it is actually; it is not what benefit you do to others, inside you, you become a free soul. And so you have contentment, which is a very elusive thing. You actually have inner happiness. So, in that sense, Imran Khan is a much more liberated person now than I was before. As far as personal sacrifice, you know, when you are going towards various goals there are always sacrifices you make. As a cricketer I used to make sacrifices too, in terms of pushing myself in training. In this case it was probably the hardest sacrifice, or, you know, God alone knows that if this wasn't politics whether my marriage would have lasted or not. You know, it is something, which we would never know. But, as it turned out, my political life did affect my marriage, and yes, it was probably the most painful period of my life.
NDTV: And now your kids, you write about that in your book, growing up, in a sense, far away from you. You worry about that? That's a big cost.
Imran Khan: Well, that's why. One of the reasons I wrote the book was because I was scared that they wouldn't know what I was, and they wouldn't know how I evolved into what I became, and they wouldn't know anything about spirituality, because, sadly, in western societies you hardly see any spirituality. The material has become so predominant, and sadly, also in our westernised elites in India and Pakistan, we have become so material. So I wanted them to have another perspective to life. What is religion? What is spirituality? What is Islam? What is being a human being and what should be your purpose of existence? So that's why I wrote my book. I had my two sons in mind because I worried that it's such a materialistic society now, and what you've seen now, this neo liberal economics. This greed, naked greed, where the rich are getting rich and poor people are getting poorer and when the rich make mistakes the poor fund them through the taxes, the blunders they make. So, I wanted them to have another perspective. And I really, yes, I do worry about them. I wish I had more influence over them and the dilemmas they face. I wish I could influence them more.
NDTV: But you are standing, at the cusp I think, of a big change for you? A big move forward, how confident, are you, in the end, that you are Pakistan's future?
Imran Khan: Well, it's like when I used to step on the cricket field I always thought I could win.
NDTV: But you didn't always.
Imran Khan: I didn't always. I would get a thrashing too but I always used to think that there is no one in this field who can beat me. I never thought this in politics until now. Now, I think that all of them put together will not be able to stop me, and my tsunami, because I have total faith in people. I thought the people, the moment they got aware, and thankfully the very vibrant, independent media in Pakistan has raised the level of awareness, which didn't exist before. The moment they had awareness I knew that they would rebel against the status quo. And they have. So I think that no matter what they do now it is too late to stop us.
NDTV: Well, Imran Khan, as you've been saying now for a while, your time has come. Thank you so much, a pleasure to talk to you.