Imran Khan’s rise is a metaphor for a changing world the west has failed to see

Jason Burke in The Guardian:

It is election season in Pakistan. Expect massive rallies, dust, shouted slogans in stadiums, dirty tricks, a modicum of violence and industrial quantities of sweet tea consumed by candidates and voters alike.

The frontrunner in the poll is Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician. Now 65, Khan has been on the stump for two decades. This is a long time in politics. I stood close enough at one of his first major rallies in his hometown of Lahore in 1998 to read his speech over his shoulder. The first line on the first page read: “Believe in Pakistan.” I was sceptical of his prospects and my report was headlined No Khan Do.

Now the top job in one of the world’s most troubled, resilient and strategically important nations could soon be his. The story of how this happened contains a lesson for us all. Khan has attracted much attention in western media over the years, much of it for the wrong reasons. His sporting prowess, playboy reputation and marriage to and divorce from socialite heiress Jemima Goldsmith fuelled tabloid fascination. His midlife turn to religion, conservative values and political ambitions attracted more serious analysis. But what I, like most others, long missed was that Khan was ahead of his time, not behind it.

More here.