Growing up in Australia in the 1980s it was hard to avoid the amazing talents of Imran Khan, the great Pakistani cricketer known as the Lion of Lahore.
He was a leader, a cricket god, and a sex god too according to the papers. And according to the French girl I went to uni with, Tess. Tess of the Disturbervilles, as one lecturer called her, wore Khan’s Pakistan one-day-cricket shirt nearly every day, courtesy of a, ahem, “one-night-cricket match” with the great man during an international match here in Perth against Australia.
Imran was the playboy of the eastern world. And proof that money and fame allows the rich and famous from any religion to pretty much set the rules of engagement for themselves. There’s another name for that – hypocrite.
After all before he married the very Jewish Jemima Goldsmith, he partied hard around the world, just as hard as he had played cricket.
But how the Lion of Lahore has changed. He’s turned into the Pussycat of Punjab when it comes to the acquittal of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy towards Islam in that region.
Faced with the murderous hordes of Islamists in Pakistan who demanded the death penalty for Asia Bibi, Imran has bowled the maiden over.
The court acquittal of the charges, after nine years imprisonment, so enraged those seeking Asia Bibi’s life, that asylum in another country became her, and her family’s only option. They want her dead and nothing, it seems, will stop them.
They’ve demanded, and been given, the right to retry Asia Bibi, meaning she is no longer free to leave the country. She’s under constant protection, while her lawyer has fled the country dressed only in the clothes he was standing in. Oh, and his pyjamas.
And as The Times reports, Imran caved in, after first appearing to stand with her:
Mr Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, had at first stood up to the protesters, calling them “enemies of the country” in a speech after the verdict. Within 48 hours, however, his government appeared to capitulate, agreeing to put Ms Bibi on the exit-control list in exchange for an end to the protests. It also promised that it would not oppose a court petition calling for her acquittal to be overturned.
As The Times reports, Bibi’s lawyer, Saif ul-Malook said he hoped he would be joined by his wife and daughter in Europe, stating “For the moment there is a detachment of police protecting them, but it won’t last for long.”
Jemima Goldsmith, who probably knows Imran better than anyone, accused Imran of signing Asia Bibi’s death warrant. And probably the death warrant of anyone connected to her also.
What is even more astounding is that no country has even offered her asylum. Christianity is being purged from the Middle East and through the rest of the Islamic world, while secular Europe continually finds ways to avoid talking about it, or doing anything about it.
If anything it rings of cowardice, as several politicians in Pakistan who had supported Asia Bibi have been assassinated for doing so.
It seems a long time since Khan was that cricket god we all worshipped. A long time since the problem in Pakistan was that pesky General Zia who ruled the country with a secular iron fist. Once that fist was gone, courtesy of a mysterious plane crash back in 1988, another iron fist descended on the nation.
Imran Khan, it seems, is captaining his country once again. Only this time it’s towards the ignominy associated with everything that he apparently despised and ignored in his playboy days.
He is finding that leading a nation is a lot different to leading a cricket team.
Some former captains of national cricket teams are on the outer for using sandpaper to scuff up a ball. Other former captains serve up religious minorities on a plate to murderous hordes.