An Interview with Pakistani Sporting Legend Imran Khan

Whether it be a sports team, a classroom, a business or a country a leader can have a massive impact on the organisation.

Imran Khan led Pakistan’s cricket team to winning the Cricket World Cup in 1992.  To Pakistani sports fans he was the equivalent of Michael Jordan, David Beckham and Tiger Woods combined.

Pakistani’s are crazy for cricket and so having someone that was considered one of the best in the world made him a local and international hero.

After his cricket career Imran Khan got involved in politics and formed Tehreek-e-Insaf(Movement for Justice) hoping that his skills in leading the country’s cricket team can also be used to lead the country’s government.

Leadership is transferrable and there is no reason that a cricketer can not lead the country successfully.  Arnold Schwarzenegger for instance is having a relatively successful political career as governor in California.  On the side note though I would say that politics often hurts Pakistan.  The typical politician has to overplay how much of a “mess” the country is in.  So his visit to the UAE for instance, might actually have hurt Pakistan as typical politicans not in power in Pakistan tend to tell the world how badly the country is doing and how to not trust the government.  Which leads to less investment for the country.  Which leads to less improvement.

In case you can’t see the interview with Imran Khan above click here:

or watch it on Vimeo if YouTube happens to be inaccessible where you are:

After 3 years in the United Arab Emirates my conclusions are that democracy can actually damage a brand.  As Pakistan is politically free and the media is also free the amount of ‘negative’ hype has led to a huge damage to the brand.  Admittedly, there are parts that could do better – but lessons from the UAE (Dubai) are that as there is no politics and everyone knows who the Skeikh is than there are less people going around and speaking negatively about brand “Dubai”, “Abu Dhabi” or “UAE” – which leads to more investment in the country and more optimism for its people.

As a national hero Imran Khan has the opportunity to make young Pakistani’s feel optimistic about their future – but as a politician the basic speech outline is “the country is going to be further in trouble unless I come to power”.  So young Pakistani’s grow up with a pessimistic view of their country.  They often wait for the “right leader” rather than taking action themselves to improve the country.

Imran Khan is highly educated (Oxford University) as well as articulate and has skills for great leadership.  He is someone that is a great asset to “Brand Pakistan” but entering into politics means that he has to damage the brand in order to get elected.  If politicians went around saying how well the current governments were performing than they lose their opportunities of getting elected.  Making people feel fed-up with the current situation leads to more job opportunities for the politicians.

Imagine running Apple as a democracy – every 4 years the shareholders would hold their breath to see if Steve Jobs got elected.  There would be people within the company highlighting Steve’s failures and downplaying his successes thus causing damage to brand “Apple” so they could come in and be elected as the CEO.  Steve would spend more time on defending his decisions than on new product development.  Apple employees would no longer be working as a team trying to develop the best products but instead have cliques of people competing against each other and causing more harm to their own company than Microsoft.

Winston Churchill famously said “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.  In terms of brand management though (countries are brands) I would say democracy is one of the worst forms of government.  The brand of the country does not have consistency – imagine Nike’s “Just do it.” and swoosh sign changing every four years.  Also democracy leads to people openly criticizing the brand.  I don’t have the answer for the “best form of government” but I am merely highlighting from a brand management perspective democracy is poor.  For all the criticism that Cuba and North Korea might get one benefit they have is their brands are relatively consistent in the global consumer, business and investor’s minds.

A lot of the skills that made Imran Khan successful as a cricketer will help him become successful as a politician.  Ultimately, he could have “chilled out” in peace and enjoyed his retirement.  But Imran has big goals.  And that is what made him successful as a cricketer – to not merely play the game but to be the best.  And now he is driven to help Pakistan progress.  I’m sure his party will continue to do well and keep the current government on their toes.

Why I have a little “rant” on the political situation is as a marketer I’m passionate about branding.  And one of my side projects is “Rebrand Pakistan” as I feel that the image of a country can create or lose millions of jobs (would you trust Boeing airplanes made in Pakistan?).  Most developing world countries have branding issues which leads to less global investment from businesses.

You can see a little video below on the cost of a Pakistani Passport for the average Pakistani.  And how a poor brand makes Pakistani’s less competitive globally.  If you are Rawandan, Iraq, Iranian, Afghani etc you may “find and replace” the world “Pakistan” with your brand.

In case you can’t see the video

If you would like to find out more about Imran Khan’s political party you can visit

You might also enjoy reading “Passportism in Singapore” 

About the Author

Amir Anzur


  1. Samina

    I am not sure who is the author of this article, as there is no name given. But I would like to suggest something. First of all you have talked about Democracy, which I do not see anywhere near the Pakistani Government. The problem with you people (whoever you are) is that you are observing this country from far away with a hawk like image, what u get as a result is not the real thing. There is no Democracy in Pakistan. In fact there are many (many many) royal families ruling on this country. Whatever is the system ( so called democracy or so called dictatorship) It is understood that a member of these families, their coming generations, relatives or anyone would be there as head of state. No ordinary person can become ruler of this country through any means (very few exceptions are there but the one from a common background will have to act like them). A ruling class has been created in this country which brings all its efforts to hinder the progress of its common people. The best they have done in this regard is that the oppurtunities of getting education for the people of Pakistan are very low and most of the people remain illiterate. Those who have a little access to the education facility face many layered system of education, which is designed to facilitate upper classes. On the first layer there are American School, Grammar Schools, 2ndly there are some English Medium Schools which are accessible to the upper middle class families, on third number some Schools have English plus Urdu medium, then there are Government owned schools, which consists of broken buildings, broken furniture, less educated teachers who are not appointed on merit but just to please some of the poor relatives or acquaintances of the ruling class. Lastly comes Medrassahs which give free education but… you know what that education does with the poor people. Imran Khan belongs to the same ruling class, so his chances of coming into power re high. He may be a good Captain, he may be a sincere social worker but as I believe at least I do not expect him to bring a change into this country, simply because such change would not suit him or his family, who are presently enjoying a royal status and a high standard of living here. Besides being from the upper class he does not even know in which conditions 95% Pakistanis are living. He has never gone through that ordeal through which an average Pakistani goes through daily because of load shedding, inflation, unemployment opportunities, sheer poverty and calamities caused by harsh weather. In the last I would like to tell you one truth that the term highly educated people (either from Oxford from or from any Ivy League University or any University in US or UK) in my opinion is a person who knows many things in fact most of the things about this world, but he would have no or a very very little knowledge about his own country and its real people. Thank you. Hope you would not mind my being so blunt but thats what I believe.

  2. Hey Samina, thanks for taking out the time to comment – I can see you are passionate about this!

    I do believe that people/politicians such as Imran do want to benefit the country but often times it is about not knowing what to do to improve things. I’ve not really met many people in life that genuinely want others to do badly (including the upper class Pakistanis or politicians). Often to be in politics though you have to please a few people rather than the masses otherwise you won’t be in power anymore.

    I’m optimistic about Pakistan’s future though – I believe the internet will have a huge impact over the next few decades there. Firstly, there is the “open nature” of the web – now if a local politician is corrupt it might appear all over his facebook profile and its easier for a country to know when the people are discontent. Secondly, the internet means that the remotest parts of the country can get access to the latest global thinking instead of waiting for old books to reach them.

    Thanks for your comment.


  3. Samina

    Thanks for reading my comments and your response on that. I am sorry as I really still doubt that Imran wants to benefit the country instead of his own family. Because apparently it is not shown from any of his actions. He never talks about the change like removing the feudal system, bringing any land reforms, taxing the agriculture sector etc. Which are main concerns for this country as they will break the status quo and bring into power the common men. He only speaks against poor MQM which is the only party that consists of middle class poor people. All he talks about is against USA which can give some pleasure to the people but is against the ground realities as Pakistan is already a defaulter of American Loans. Besides I dont think that talking against US is what we need. I dont believe USA has any role in destruction of this country, believe me its our own people. In addition to that Imran’s sons are studying in UK, his ex wife and in-laws live there. He is related to them and in Pakistan he speaks against white people. Isn’t it Hypocrisy?
    You are hopeful about bringing the change through Internet, but how is that possible when almost 90% of the population is illiterate and also due to poverty has no access to the computers. and there is no chances of any improvement in our education system in near future.

    1. Hi Samina,

      I don’t know Imran Khan well enough to guess his motives but agreed many politicians are self serving. There was a great book I read a while ago “The Undercover Economist” by Tim Hardford (I think!) which explained why countries such as Cameroon have political incentive to remain poor (same economic logic goes for Pakistan).

      In terms of the internet it is a tool to spread knowledge quickly. In the old days Imran Khan might simply come on television and communicate one way to the mass population. On the web, people such as yourself can at least openly critisize. The web makes it easier for teachers to be trained remotely. And although I agree that if only 10 % of the population is literate than at least 10 % get better education that eventually spreads.

      It’s a long discussion but I’ll send out a few posts in the near future on how the web changes the world of education.

      Thanks for your comments.


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