“Pity prisoner 804,” says Isabel Oakeshott in The Daily Telegraph. In a social media video released before his three-year jail sentence was suspended this week, former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan is pictured “staring through the bars of a cell, hands clasped as if in silent prayer”. Juxtaposing clips of his proudest moments with images of the “rat-infested” Attock prison where he is being held, the montage portrays the so-called “PM of hearts” as a “martyr paying a terrible price for his patriotism”. It’s easy for casual observers in the West to be taken in. Khan “looks and sounds the part”: he went to Oxford, and has impeccable connections to British high society through his first marriage to Jemima Goldsmith. Surely the former international cricketer “shares our values”?
Don’t be so sure. Having left his “colourful playboy past” behind, Khan is now an ultra-devout Muslim who in 2021 said rape victims were partly to blame for “wearing very few clothes”. His three years in office were marred by allegations of political persecutions and stunts designed to make him seem more popular than he was. He was openly sympathetic towards the Taliban – insisting there is “no such thing as radical Islam” – and cosied up to both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. When he finally lost a no-confidence vote last year, he tried to block the decision by dissolving parliament. No wonder leaked documents show that the US State Department “actively encouraged” his deposal. Khan’s supporters can “wring their hands” over his plight all they like. He’s not the saint he’s made out to be.