“I Want to Make Pakistan Better,” Imran Khan Told Me in 2004
Watch senior cricket journalist Nishant Arora speak about his conversation with Pakistan’s PM-in-waiting Imran Khan.
Video Editor: Abishek Sharma
I went to cover India's tour of Pakistan in 2004. It was a historic tour since Team India travelled to Pakistan after almost 15 years. There was a different level of excitement. So one of our friends took us for dinner at somebody's place and there I met Imran Khan for the first time.
When we watched cricket in our childhood, we would be jealous of Imran Khan. Because Pakistan used to win most matches against India in 1990s and the main reason was Imran Khan's leadership. In the 1992 World Cup, India were knocked out and Pakistan went on to win the tournament. That was difficult to digest for the Indian fans.
At that time (in 2004), because Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was going through a tough time, I asked Imran why he doesn’t do something for the PCB. I asked, “Why don't you lead PCB, because you have led this team, you have performed well for this team and you understand how cricket works. So, why don't you come forward and help them?” He said, “I have a bigger responsibility and a bigger challenge to deal with. I want to help Pakistan as a nation and I am not looking only at cricket and if I am able to help Pakistan to become a better place and a better country I think cricket will take care of itself.”
That day I understood what Imran Khan's vision is and how he looks at his leadership. And I also understood that cricket was a part of his life but not everything for him.
Then he said that he wants the Indian cricket team to visit the cancer hospital he built in the memory of his mother. Imran was driven to make a world class cancer hospital in Pakistan after his mother passed away due to cancer. Imran did everything possible to make the hospital. He said there's not even one person from whom he didn't ask for donation or help. All the earnings by Imran from the 1992 World Cup win was invested in the making of the hospital.
He said one of the the greatest motivations for him to come out of retirement was the 1992 World Cup. He thought that if Pakistan win the World Cup he will be able to generate more funds for the hospital. And as luck would have it, under Imran's leadership Pakistan won that World Cup. Even though he donated all his earnings for the hospital he was still short of funds.
He looked at us and said “nowadays people talk about crowdfunding and I laugh about it. Because I invented crowdfunding in 1992-93.”
When I didn’t have enough funds I sat in a car with a loudspeaker and would go to various villages and cities and request donations. I would ask for Rs 5-10 from everyone. I would leave in the morning and come back in the night.Imran Khan
And that is how Imran arranged funds to build the hospital. When the Indian team visited the hospital, you could see the happiness on his face.
The Indian cricketers at the hospital understood that if a cricketer uses his platform effectively he can bring a change in the society.
Imran, through the hospital, showed that by being a celebrity, one can help his country and society in many ways. Imran deserves to be where he is today. Everyone hopes that Pakistan will prosper under his leadership. India will also benefit from Imran at the helm as a stable neighbour always helps.
We hope that the relations improve and we are able to see India-Pakistan cricket again. If Pakistan has a Prime Minister who was such a big cricketer, he would like to improve relations and the best way to improve relations would be by playing cricket.
Hopefully, Imran is able to do that and we wish him all the very best. And let's see how Imran Khan performs as a leader of his country.
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