Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center named Prime Minister Imran Khan as its ‘Man of the Year’ in its recent list of the most persuasive Muslims in the world.
The center, which is an autonomous research entity with the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan chose Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib as its ‘Woman of the Year.’
“If The Muslim 500 was in print back in 1992 and I was the Chief Editor then, I would have nominated Imran Khan as our Muslim Man of the Year because of his brilliant performance in cricket, which culminated in Pakistan winning the 1992 Cricket World Cup — a sport I have always admired for its combination of elegance and intense competitive play,” Professor S Abdallah Schleifer, a Professor Emeritus of Journalism in the American University in Cairo, who chose both the winners for the titles, said.
Schleifer was quick to add that Khan’s role in cricket was not the only criteria for him being bestowed with the title.
He said he also impressed with Khan launching a successful fund-raising campaign to establish a hospital devoted to both the care of cancer victims and its research.
“This was his magnificent response to the loss of his mother to cancer in 1985 and given Khan’s extraordinary popularity with Pakistanis both at home as well as among the large number of Pakistani expats – along with his own, no doubt, generous personal contribution — he raised sufficient funds so that by 1994, the Shaoukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital opened its doors in Lahore whereby 75 percent of its patients receive free-care,” he added.
However, it was PM Khan’s desire for peace with neighboring India which earned him the title, Schleifer said.
Khan assumed the office of Prime Minister of Pakistan last year after devoting 22 years of his life to building an opposition political party that was committed to reform and confronting Pakistan’s civilian political establishment over the issue of embedded corruption and mismanagement.
This and his other accomplishments, professor Schleifer says, are detailed in the biography that accompanies his ranking (Number 16) in the latest edition of The Muslim 500.
“But what is particularly to his credit is that upon taking office in August 2018, Khan made it quite clear that one of his top priorities was to work for lasting peace with India…
“He wanted to normalize relations through trade, and settling the Kashmir dispute, “the foremost impediment” in the Prime Minister’s own words “to the normalization of relations between us…
“Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers”, he writes and goes on to say that “with the three past examples of conventional armed conflict in mind the Prime Minister had to be more conscious than anyone in Pakistan that in face of India’s great depth in land, population and the size of its armed forces, conventional warfare was a route that would lead to disaster for Pakistan”.
In his first televised broadcast as the premier of the country, Khan addressed not just the people of Pakistan and the world, but India in particular. At the time, he’d said that Pakistan wanted lasting peace with India and “if it took one step forward, we would take two steps.”
Khan, however, didn’t wait for that one step.
A meeting between the foreign ministers of both the countries was arranged on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2018, but India canceled the meeting.
That September, Khan also wrote the first of his three letters to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for dialogue and lasting peace.
Modi did not respond.
“Khan says that while all his efforts to start a dialogue were rebuffed by India, he and his cabinet assumed that Modi’s increasingly hard-lined positions and his rhetoric against Pakistan were aimed at whipping up a nationalist frenzy among the Indian voters with an eye to the Indian elections,” Schleifer said.
“This is Imran Khan’s great dilemma— how do you make a much desired lasting peace with a nation governed by those who have neither interest nor need to make a lasting peace with Pakistan, and against whom any form of war would be hopeless,” he added.
The answer it would seem lies in the fact that Khan’s efforts must now focus on mobilizing global opinion, to turn an R.S.S.- led India into a global pariah.
“With his impressive column in the New York Times and the sudden burst of public activity by some of Khan’s touring ministers and ambassadors in America, Europe and perhaps in Asia, that appears to be now underway,” he concludes.