It is politics, not cricket that keeps Imran Khan occupied in this year of the general elections and the election of the General to the Pakistani presidency.
But the former test all-rounder wants Pervez Musharraf back to the pavilion. He compares him with Hosni Mubarak, the US-propped military ruler who is also the president of Egypt.
"The Opposition has a huge responsibility to ward off attempts to impose a Mubarak on Pakistan. The Egyptian leader also holds elections but they haven’t ushered in genuine democracy in that country," Imran told the Hindustan Times in an interview.
For him, genuine democracy is about dismantling the system fathered by the Pak President: “There can be no compromise or a deal with Musharraf. His policies are potentially destructive of Pakistan."
Imran’s passion is contiguous. But on Pakistan’s political turf, his Tehreek-e-Insaf (TI) party is no better than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in cricket. His clean, iconic image among the country’s youth is his sole USP in the broader efforts for a joint front against Musharraf.
As the TI’s lone voice in Parliament, the MNA from Mianwali in Punjab has been quite robust in his criticism of Musharraf’s “demonstrative” willingness to be 'captained' by US President George Bush. "It's deeply insulting that as a country, we should be a lackey of the United States," he remarked.
Imran’s main objective, therefore, is to broker an accord between the right wing Muttahida-Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and the relatively progressive Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), led by Benazir Bhutto’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League.
But among the MMA and ARD components, his detractors find him better tuned with the rabidly rightist Jamat-e-Islami (JI) and Sharif’s PML.
"The JI and the PML (Nawaz) are against any deal with the General. Through them, I’m trying to bring other MMA and ARD partners on board," he explained. At the meetings he had with Sharif in London, the former Prime Minister “took the responsibility of convincing Benazir.”
But will the exiled Benazir and Sharif return to Pakistan before elections? "I don’t know whether they will; in the interest of Pakistan, they should," reasoned Imran.
Otherwise, it would be a walkover for Musharraf’s supporters in the ruling PML (Q). He will "manipulate the polls to secure an electoral college" that re-elects him as President.
And what if the General manages to keep the Opposition divided by offering Benazir a quid pro quo entailing a safe return to Pakistan? "The very conditions of the deal will prevent the deal from happening," replied Imran.
"For Benazir, it will be suicidal to accept what Musharraf needs for survival - a presidential stint in the army chief’s gear."