The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two up, one to go
- Imran catches up with Ranatunga as lawmaker

Calcutta, Oct.14: Imran Khan beat Arjuna Ranatunga to the World Cup, but it’s the Sri Lankan hero who made it to Parliament before the icon from Pakistan.

Now, Imran too is right up there.

Indeed, with Imran getting elected to the National Assembly, two of the three World Cup-winning captains from Asia have a seat in their country’s supreme law-making body.

Of course, it’s to be seen whether Kapil Dev will, at some point, enter either the Lok Sabha or the House of Elders. It’s no secret that pro politicians keep wooing him.

Imran, unsuccessful in all nine seats he contested during the 1997 elections, defeated the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) candidate, Obaidullah Shadikhel, by around 6,000 votes in Mianwali.

While the PML (Q) is pro Pervez Musharraf, Imran heads the independent Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which he founded in early 1996.

Mianwali, it may be recalled, is the home turf of the Niazi family and Imran polled about 66,400 votes, a big improvement on the 18,000 or so he got in 1997. Mianwali is a shade over three hours’ drive from Lahore.

Imran, however, lost in three constituencies — Swat and Karak in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), as also Lahore (seat NA-122). Ironically, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) candidate who beat him in Lahore, Sardar Ayaz Mehmood, had been a Tehreek nominee in the last elections.

Till Imran moved to Islamabad a few years ago, he was Lahore’s best known face. Yet, in last week’s election, a low turnout saw only about 18,000 vote in his favour. The winner got around 32,000.

[In the provincial assembly elections too, only one Tehreek candidate won — Mian Nisar Gul in the NWFP.]

Imran himself wasn’t available for comment — he was in Mianwali (where, for instance, cellphones don’t function) to “personally” thank constituents — but a Tehreek spokesman did speak to The Telegraph from Islamabad this afternoon.

“The only silver lining, frankly, is that the National Assembly will at least have one independent voice… We were banking on the silent majority turning out in big numbers but, when the turnout is low, it’s the professional politicians who gain,” the spokesman said.

Clearly, it didn’t help that Imran largely gave tickets to the “educated middle-class”. Neither did his candidates have the resources, nor could they really have ‘outsmarted’ the pros.

Also, it’s not insignificant that Imran declined to be part of an alliance which had Musharraf’s blessings. Moreover, some of Imran’s comments appear to have more than angered the Establishment.

“Imran couldn’t have joined that alliance as it comprised the most corrupt politicians,” explained the spokesman, adding that “manipulation was very much there”.

In Mianwali, though, Imran — who has consistently been tearing into corruption — was unputdownable. As it turned out, the start of his new innings coincided with Pakistan’s worst moment in cricket (in Sharjah).

Imran’s feelings must have been very mixed.

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