Pakistan’s Populist Triumph

Omar Waraich in The Atlantic:

At long last, Imran Khan is the prime minister of Pakistan. After winning the highest number of seats in parliament in this week’s election, the former cricket legend and philanthropist is now set to form a national government and possibly rule two of Pakistan’s four provinces, making him the country’s most powerful civilian leader in decades. It’s a remarkable reversal of fortunes for Khan, who for decades was mocked by his opponents as a naïve, inexperienced celebrity keen to perpetuate his own fame. Khan, however, remained determined. “I always fight till the last ball,” he told me a few years ago.

Khan won a special place in Pakistani hearts in 1992, when he led the national cricket team to victory at the World Cup. In a country where passions for cricket can reach near-religious fervor, the cricket team is seen as a metaphor for the government: full of rarely realized potential, but thwarted by poor leadership and appalling greed. After the World Cup, and Khan’s retirement, there were lurid allegations of ball-tampering and match-fixing. The sporting heroes were reduced to the status of grasping politicians. Khan’s fans wistfully recalled the glory days of his captaincy; now they hope he can do the same for the country.

More here.