“What’s tragic is that there once was hope for Imran Khan,” says Pia Krishnankutty in the Indian website The Print. The playboy cricketer turned politician, who was ousted as prime minister of Pakistan on Sunday, used to be something of a “national hero”. In 1992, he captained Pakistan to victory in the Cricket World Cup. After retiring from sport he went into philanthropy, raising vast amounts of money to build Pakistan’s first cancer hospital in 1994. So when Khan formed a political party in 1996, the excitement was palpable. But Khan’s stint as PM proved a huge disappointment. During his three-and-a-half-year tenure, the 69-year-old “battered” Pakistan’s economy, made the country more and more reliant on Beijing, and touted conspiracy theories that US officials (and Pakistan’s press) were out to get him.
Khan is far from the first Pakistani PM to be removed from office. What “separates him from his predecessors” is his astonishing cockiness. In February, for example, Khan visited Moscow on the day Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. His foreign ministry and armed forces had warned him against it, but the PM ploughed on. “What a time to come,” he said, all smiles, on landing in Russia. “So much excitement.” Khan always lacked “political maturity and strategic prowess”, but this was the nail in the coffin. As his ex-wife Jemima Goldsmith said last year, in response to off-colour comments Khan had made about rape: this isn’t “the Imran I knew”.