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

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It's easy to see where Berlin is being rebuilt – just hit the streets

My week, from walking the streets of Berlin to class snobbery and the right kind of gentrification.

Brick by brick, block by block, the people are rebuilding the city once called Faust’s Metropolis. To see it clearly, put your boots on. One of the most bracing walks starts by the Gethsemane Church, which served as a haven for dissenters in the last days of the GDR and takes you down ­towards the Hackescher Markt.

Here, in what is still the eastern half of a divided city that wears its division more lightly, is a Berlin experience both old and new. In three decades of frequent visits, it has been fascinating to note how much this part of town has changed. Even a decade ago these streets were rundown. With crumbling buildings showing bulletholes, it wasn’t hard to imagine what the place looked like in 1945. Now there are lilacs, blues, and yellows. Cafés, bars and restaurants abound, serving the young professionals attracted to the city by cheap rents and a renewed sense of community.

 

Breaking the fourth wall

Looking north along Schliemannstraße, you’ll find a delightful vista of well-tended balconies. It’s a pleasant place to live, notwithstanding the gaggle of grotesques who gather round the corner in the square. On Kastanienallee, which forms the second leg of the walk, an old city feels young. It’s a kind of gentrification but the right kind. There’s more to eat, to drink, to buy, for all.

Berlin, where Bertolt Brecht staged his unwatchable plays, was supposed to have been transformed by a proletarian revolution. Instead, it has been restored to health by a very middle-class one. Germany has always had a well-educated middle class, and the nation’s restoration would have impossible without such people. The irony is delicious – not that irony buttered many parsnips for “dirty Bertie”.

 

The new snobbery

The British Museum’s survey of German history “Memories of a Nation” is being presented at the Martin-Gropius-Bau as “The British View”. Germans, natürlich, are curious to see how we observe them. But how do they see us?

A German friend recently in England  said that the images that struck him most forcibly were the tins of food and cheap booze people piled up in supermarkets, and the number of teenage girls pushing prams. Perhaps Neil MacGregor, the former director of the British Museum who will shortly take up a similar role here at the new Humboldt Forum, may turn his attention to a “German View” of the United Kingdom.

There’s no shortage of material. In Schlawinchen, a bar that typifies Kreuzberg’s hobohemia, a college-educated English girl was trying to explain northern England to an American she had just met. Speaking in an ugly modern Mancunian voice that can only be acquired through years of practice (sugar pronounced as “sug-oar”), she refer­red to Durham and York as “middle class, you know, posh”, because those cities had magnificent cathedrals.

When it comes to inverted snobbery, no nation can match us. To be middle class in Germany is an indication of civic value. In modern England, it can mark you as a leper.

 

Culture vultures

The Humboldt Forum, taking shape by the banks of the Spree, reconsecrates the former site of the GDR’s Palace of the Republic. When it opens in 2018 it will be a “living exhibition”, dedicated to all the cultures of the world. Alexander von Humboldt, the naturalist and explorer, was the brother of Wilhelm, the diplomat and philosopher, whose name lives on in the nearby university.

In Potsdamerplatz there are plans to build a modern art museum, crammed in between the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Philharmonie, home to the Berlin Philharmonic. Meanwhile, the overhaul of the Deutsche Staatsoper, where Daniel Barenboim is music director for life, is likely to be completed, fingers crossed, next autumn.

Culture everywhere! Or perhaps that should be Kultur, which has a slightly different meaning in Germany. They take these things more seriously, and there is no hint of bogus populism. In London, plans for a new concert hall have been shelved. Sir Peter Hall’s words remain true: “England is a philistine country that loves the arts.”

 

European neighbours

When Germans speak of freedom, wrote A J P Taylor, a historian who seems to have fallen from favour, they mean the freedom to be German. No longer. When modern Germans speak of freedom, they observe it through the filter of the European Union.

But nation states are shaped by different forces. “We are educated to be obedient,” a Berlin friend who spent a year at an English school once told me. “You are educated to be independent.” To turn around Taylor’s dictum: when the English speak of freedom,
they mean the freedom to be English.

No matter what you may have heard, the Germans have always admired our independence of spirit. We shall, however, always see “Europe” in different ways. Europe, good: we can all agree on that. The European Union, not so good. It doesn’t mean we have to fall out, and the Germans are good friends to have.

 

Hook, line and sinker

There are fine walks to be had in the west, too. In Charlottenburg, the Kensington of Berlin, the mood is gentler, yet you can still feel the city humming. Here, there are some classic places to eat and drink – the Literaturhauscafé for breakfast and, for dinner, Marjellchen, a treasure trove of east Prussian forest delights. Anything that can be shot and put in a pot!

For a real Berlin experience, though, head at nightfall for Zwiebelfisch, the great tavern on Savignyplatz, and watch the trains glide by on the other side of Kantstraße. Hartmut Volmerhaus, a most amusing host, has been the guvnor here for more than 30 years and there are no signs that his race is run. The “Fisch” at twilight: there’s nowhere better to feel the pulse of this remarkable city. 

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage