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Imran Khan’s Most Controversial Problems

by AFP
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Aamir Qureshi—AFP

A roundup of the PTI chief’s stated positions that have observers raising their eyebrows

General elections winner Imran Khan has not shied away from firebrand rhetoric during his 22 years in politics. AFP picks five of his most controversial positions:

On feminism

Pakistan’s former cricket captain is viewed as something of a liberal in the West, particularly in Britain where the press remember his high-flying lifestyle and marriage to Jemima Goldsmith. But Khan sparked outrage in January when he lambasted feminism as “a Western concept,” saying in an interview that it had “degraded the role of mother.”

Critics accused him of pandering to his conservative vote base.

On blasphemy

Khan was accused of mainstreaming extremism by launching a full-throttled defense of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, which carry a maximum penalty of death.

Just weeks before the election, Khan told clerics in televised comments that his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party “fully” supports the blasphemy law “and will defend it.”

“No Muslim can call himself a Muslim unless he believes that Islam’s Prophet is the last prophet,” he said—a statement that raised alarm among the Ahmadi sect, who are persecuted for their beliefs.

‘Taliban Khan’

The ex-cricketer has earned the moniker “Taliban Khan” for repeatedly arguing for peace talks with militants and for his party’s alliance with Sami-ul-Haq, the so-called Father of the Taliban whose madrassas once educated Taliban stalwarts Mullah Omar and Jalaluddin Haqqani.

In 2013 Khan even suggested that the Pakistani Taliban should be allowed to open an office in the country. The previous year he had come in for criticism for his perceived lukewarm condemnation of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl turned women’s rights activist and Nobel prize winner.

American drone strikes

Khan, 65, has railed repeatedly against American drone strikes on Pakistani territory, angering the South Asian country’s biggest benefactor.

He has claimed that the strikes have killed innocent civilians, something the American government denies, despite several independent groups claiming significant mistakes in the targeting protocol.

In 2012 he was briefly removed from an international flight from Canada to New York and questioned by U.S. immigration officials on his views about the strikes.

Corruption

Khan was elected largely on an anti-graft ticket—he has described corruption as a “security risk” to Pakistan. But he drew flak for welcoming politicians from parties he has accused of being corrupt into PTI ahead of the election.

In April Khan announced that he would refer 20 PTI lawmakers to an anti-corruption body after they were accused of selling votes during Senate elections.

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