May. 27, 2020


Imran Khan

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Imran Khan

Prime Minister of Pakistan,

Through a peek into his sporting past, Imran Khan offers us a vision of how and why his sporting career inspired his future political career.

BIO

Imran Khan is the current prime minister of Pakistan. Before entering politics he was an international cricketer and led the national team to Cricket World Cup victory in 1992. As well as being prime minister, he is also the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party.


I want to inform the audience here how an international sportsman—a cricketer—ended up in politics. I am from the first generation of Pakistanis, when Pakistan of the 1960s was considered the fastest-growing country in Asia. It was a model of development for the developing world. It was a country with optimism and hope. We grew rapidly, we had an excellent governance system, and our bureaucracy was one of the best in Asia. When I started playing cricket, Pakistan was one of the weakest teams in world cricket. As we were emerging from colonialism, we took great pride as our team became stronger and competed. By the time I left cricket, Pakistan was the world champion. But unfortunately our country could not keep up. The life of a country is in cycles; it is never in a straight line.

When I left cricket, I started building the first cancer hospital in Pakistan, because my mother had died of cancer and I realized there was no cancer hospital in the country. People like me who were well off could afford to go for treatment abroad. But what about the common man? Cancer is one of the most expensive treatments, so I started this “movement." When I went out to the public to collect money, I realized that our people are generous and strong. The poorest of the poor supported me. I did what no one ever thought could happen and built the hospital from that public collection. Not only is it built, but 80% of its patients get free treatment. To pay for the running of the hospital, I again went to the people. It is the only private cancer hospital in the world that treats 80% of its patients for free through donations.
But I kept thinking, “Why is it that people who are so generous do not pay taxes?" We are a country that is among the top five countries in charitable donations. But we are right at the bottom in paying taxes. The reason was that people did not trust the government. They thought that their taxes were wasted by the government and spent on the ruling elite's lavish lifestyles. So why would people pay taxes? And then, of course, there was corruption.
But there was a third reason why I ended up in politics. When I played professional cricket in England, half my year was spent in England and half in Pakistan. I saw how a developed country and its institutions worked, why they moved ahead, how governments were accountable, and how meritocracy worked. Above all, there was human development —money was spent on human beings.
I also saw other countries develop, and one of them was the UAE. I played cricket in the UAE from 1980 onward, and I saw that the UAE kept on developing. Then, afterwards, I saw China develop. The common thread in all the countries that have gone ahead is governance. Governance has two aspects. One is that a government has to be accountable. The more accountable and clean a government is, the more successful it is. The second is meritocracy. The better the system for getting the best talent to the top, the better the country. Let me give you a sporting example. Australia is the most successful cricket country in cricket's history of over 200 years because Australia has the best system of bringing its talent up. Pakistan has the greatest talent out of all the countries I have played, but we do not have a system to bring that talent up. What is the point of having great talent if you do not have a system of meritocracy that helps to bring that talent up? That mentality should apply to every field.

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