Stuart Broad in action on the second day of the second Ashes test at Lord's. Photograph: Getty Images
Show Hide image

Wounds from a hard campaign, visiting Lord’s with my sons – and Malala the Great

Imran Khan's diary.

Battered but not broken

For the last two months I’ve been in a terrible state physically. After my accident, when I fell from a stage during an election rally in Lahore in May, I spent two weeks in bed. I’ve never done this in my life. It was potentially a very serious injury: three vertebrae broken, cracked ribs, head injuries, and so on. Then I spent another three weeks in a brace, walking slowly. Finally I had the brace off after seeing a specialist here in England and doing physiotherapy. It’s been a testing time for someone who’s always been fit (I played international sport for 21 years) and has not known what it is like to be in a prolonged state of unfitness.

Now I’m out of my brace and on the mend. I’m ready once I go back to provide a proper opposition in Pakistan, which we haven’t had. More importantly, the one province – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – where we have a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is a golden opportunity for us to show what good governance is all about.

The reckoning

Looking back, I have mixed feelings about the election. On the one hand, my party did extremely well. Here was a party with zero seats in the last election, which we boycotted, and before that only one seat in parliament, and it has become the second-biggest party in Pakistan. We fielded 80 per cent new candidates – this was a movement against the status quo. The challenge was not winning the elections but to bring a change. If we had gone for winning the elections, we would have just picked tried and tested old political faces who were dying to join us, because we had these massive rallies and everyone knew the young were with us.

But these were the status quo politicians, against whom my whole movement was fighting. Of our candidates, 35 per cent were below the age of 40. We wanted to bring in young leadership. We put our party through trial intra-party elections. No other political party in Pakistan has ever held intra-party elections so they’re basically family parties – it’s son taking over from father or mother. Benazir Bhutto’s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, basically inherited a party as a 19-year-old after his mother was killed. The husband produced a will and said the party had been inherited by the son!

Bearing in mind we had all these new candidates and only a three-week campaign, we achieved what no other party could have hoped to achieve. We got almost eight million votes, and it’s a party that is now all over Pakistan, a federal party; the others are restricted to provinces. You need 140 seats to form a government and we got about 40 seats – but in 123 constituencies we came second. It means the party is poised for the next election, whenever it is. For now, we have time to organise our party properly.

To the streets

The downside was that this was the most rigged election in our history. Every political party that participated claimed that it was rigged. With each election, the rigging has increased because no one ever gets caught. We’ve accepted the result – Pakistan has too many crises to face a fresh election –but what we want is for the Supreme Court to do a detailed investigation of four constituencies out of 272. Then, with all the wrongdoings exposed, at least the next election should be free and fair. Our whole idea with insisting on this investigation is that we do not want a repeat of election-rigging. At the moment, I’m afraid we’re being resisted, but we are determined, even if it means a street movement. We will go on the streets to insist that there should be an investigation and that electoral reforms should take place in Pakistan.

Terror surge

Right now, the issue of terrorism in Pakistan is serious. In a year, we have had more than 300 terrorist attacks in the country. Pakistan is more radicalised thanks to the US war that we were forced to enter into by Pervez Musharraf, a military dictator. The state has got weaker at controlling terrorism and the army is stuck in the tribal areas. Some 50,000 Pakistanis have been killed, many times more than the British and Americans have lost in Afghanistan. The worst thing is that we still don’t have any solutions, because the government doesn’t have the will to pull us out of this war, which was never Pakistan’s war in the first place. There were no Pakistanis involved in the 9/11 attacks and the Taliban were in Afghanistan.

So how did we get stuck? I’m afraid it’s down to a ruling elite’s lust for dollars. They first took dollars to create the jihadis in the 1980s against the Soviets, and now they’re taking dollars to kill the same jihadis. The people of Pakistan have paid the price.

Mighty Malala

After she spoke, I read Malala Yousafzai’s speech at the United Nations. This 16-yearold girl, shot by the Taliban for her campaigning work on education, has touched everyone – and in Pakistan, too. She’s become a symbol, standing up for education. If there’s one thing a country needs, besides security, it’s education. Pakistan has an appalling record of educating its people and its female literacy is one of the worst in the world. My government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is spending more than any other province ever has on education. We’ve made education a priority – especially female education.

Ashton, Prince of Ashes

Aside from seeing a specialist about my injuries, I’m also in England to see my boys. I love watching cricket with them because they both enjoy it. We are going to the Test match at Lord’s. The first Test was unexpected. I did not think Australia would be able to put up such a fight but they surprised everyone. The young debutant Ashton Agar was very impressive; he’s got a great future.

Half of the game of cricket is fought in the mind, the other half on the field. Australia’s attitude in the next matches will be different. People had written them off, but they will now be mentally much more ready to face England. Having said that, England will still win the series and retain the Ashes.

This article first appeared in the 22 July 2013 issue of the New Statesman, How to make a saint

Getty
Show Hide image

Junior doctors’ strikes: the greatest union failure in a generation

The first wave of junior doctor contract impositions began this week. Here’s how the BMA union failed junior doctors.

In Robert Tressell’s novel, The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, the author ridicules the notion of work as a virtuous end per se:

“And when you are all dragging out a miserable existence, gasping for breath or dying for want of air, if one of your number suggests smashing a hole in the side of one of the gasometers, you will all fall upon him in the name of law and order.”

Tressell’s characters are subdued and eroded by the daily disgraces of working life; casualised labour, poor working conditions, debt and poverty.

Although the Junior Doctors’ dispute is a far cry from the Edwardian working-poor, the eruption of fervour from Junior Doctors during the dispute channelled similar overtones of dire working standards, systemic abuse, and a spiralling accrual of discontent at the notion of “noble” work as a reward in itself. 

While the days of union activity precipitating governmental collapse are long over, the BMA (British Medical Association) mandate for industrial action occurred in a favourable context that the trade union movement has not witnessed in decades. 

Not only did members vote overwhelmingly for industrial action with the confidence of a wider public, but as a representative of an ostensibly middle-class profession with an irreplaceable skillset, the BMA had the necessary cultural capital to make its case regularly in media print and TV – a privilege routinely denied to almost all other striking workers.

Even the Labour party, which displays parliamentary reluctance in supporting outright strike action, had key members of the leadership join protests in a spectacle inconceivable just a few years earlier under the leadership of “Red Ed”.

Despite these advantageous circumstances, the first wave of contract impositions began this week. The great failures of the BMA are entirely self-inflicted: its deference to conservative narratives, an overestimation of its own method, and woeful ignorance of the difference between a trade dispute and moralising conundrums.

These right-wing discourses have assumed various metamorphoses, but at their core rest charges of immorality and betrayal – to themselves, to the profession, and ultimately to the country. These narratives have been successfully deployed since as far back as the First World War to delegitimise strikes as immoral and “un-British” – something that has remarkably haunted mainstream left-wing and union politics for over 100 years.

Unfortunately, the BMA has inherited this doubt and suspicion. Tellingly, a direct missive from the state machinery that the BMA was “trying to topple the government” helped reinforce the same historic fears of betrayal and unpatriotic behaviour that somehow crossed a sentient threshold.

Often this led to abstract and cynical theorising such as whether doctors would return to work in the face of fantastical terrorist attacks, distracting the BMA from the trade dispute at hand.

In time, with much complicity from the BMA, direct action is slowly substituted for direct inaction with no real purpose and focus ever-shifting from the contract. The health service is superficially lamented as under-resourced and underfunded, yes, but certainly no serious plan or comment on how political factors and ideologies have contributed to its present condition.

There is little to be said by the BMA for how responsibility for welfare provision lay with government rather than individual doctors; virtually nothing on the role of austerity policies; and total silence on how neoliberal policies act as a system of corporate welfare, eliciting government action when in the direct interests of corporatism.

In place of safeguards demanded by the grassroots, there are instead vague quick-fixes. Indeed, there can be no protections for whistleblowers without recourse to definable and tested legal safeguards. There are limited incentives for compliance by employers because of atomised union representation and there can be no exposure of a failing system when workers are treated as passive objects requiring ever-greater regulation.

In many ways, the BMA exists as the archetypal “union for a union’s sake”, whose material and functional interest is largely self-intuitive. The preservation of the union as an entity is an end in itself.

Addressing conflict in a manner consistent with corporate and business frameworks, there remains at all times overarching emphasis on stability (“the BMA is the only union for doctors”), controlled compromise (“this is the best deal we can get”) and appeasement to “greater” interests (“think of the patients”). These are reiterated even when diametrically opposed to its own members or irrelevant to the trade dispute.

With great chutzpah, the BMA often moves from one impasse to the next, framing defeats as somehow in the interests of the membership. Channels of communication between hierarchy and members remain opaque, allowing decisions such as revocation of the democratic mandate for industrial action to be made with frightening informality.

Pointedly, although the BMA often appears to be doing nothing, the hierarchy is in fact continually defining the scope of choice available to members – silence equals facilitation and de facto acceptance of imposition. You don’t get a sense of cumulative unionism ready to inspire its members towards a swift and decisive victory.

The BMA has woefully wasted the potential for direct action. It has encouraged a passive and pessimistic malaise among its remaining membership and presided over the most spectacular failure of union representation in a generation.

Ahmed Wakas Khan is a junior doctor, freelance journalist and editorials lead at The Platform. He tweets @SireAhmed.