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Khan Artist

Imran Khan, the man who sparked the Newsweek riots: Islamist politician by day, London playboy by night.

12:00 AM, May 31, 2005 • By JAI SINGH and JAMES FORSYTH
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Khan's ambition burns brightly but he is the only member of his party in parliament, and enjoys little popular support. His strategy for getting to the top is to climb on the anti-Musharraf bandwagon. "By the time we have the next general elections," said Khan recently, "we would see two broad-based political alliances in the country, pro-Musharraf and anti-Musharraf." The easiest way to attack Musharraf, of course, is to attack his American protectors. Unfortunately, Musharraf has decided he will stay in power beyond 2007, keeping Khan's incentive to bash America intact. The rise of men like Imran Khan is the price America pays for backing a Muslim dictator--no matter how progressive--in the name of stability.

NOT THAT KHAN scorns America entirely: He likes its money. On May 15, just days after the riots killed 17 people and injured dozens of others, Khan was in Washington, D.C. raising $175,000 for his cancer hospital. His fundraising tour also took him to Denver, Los Angeles, and New York. But don't expect him to mention back in Lahore that American generosity is keeping his hospital going.

Even his political allies find Khan's duplicity hard to take. In 2002 one of his party leaders remarked: "Even we are finding it difficult to figure out the real Imran. He dons the shalwar-kameez and preaches desi and religious values while in Pakistan, but transforms himself completely while rubbing shoulders with the elite in Britain and elsewhere in the West." Khan claims that his marriage proved he wasn't a politician but his divorce and his recent demagoguery show that he now is one, albeit one of the worst sort.

James Forsyth is an assistant editor and Jai Singh is research editor at Foreign Policy.