Imran Khan was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2018 when he acted as a nationalist, promising to fight corruption, revive the country’s struggling economy and pursue an independent foreign policy that removed Pakistan from the United States.
Born to a wealthy family in Lahore and educated at Oxford University, 69-year-old Mr. Khan first rose to international fame in the late 1970s on the cricket pitch and became a regular in the fashionable London crowd. In 1995, he married a British heiress, Jemima Goldsmith.
A year later, Mr. Khan turned his popularity from cricket – he had led Pakistan to its only World Cup win in 1992 – into a political career by founding his own party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or the Movement for Justice. † As a politician, he painted a picture of himself as a reformer offering an alternative to Pakistan’s entrenched political dynasties.
For over a decade, Mr Khan struggled to get through politics and was ridiculed for his political ambitions. But by 2011, he had begun to gain political momentum, attracting hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis to his rallies. Many were energized by his populist, anti-corruption and anti-American message.
By this time, the former international playboy had embraced a devout form of Islam and was trying to transform his personal image. In 2018, Mr Khan married his spiritual advisor Bushra Bibi for the third time. (His marriage to Mrs. Goldsmith had ended in divorce, and he was briefly married to a television journalist, Reham Khan, in 2015.)
After gaining the support of military leaders, Mr. Khan as prime minister in 2018. Many of his rivals accused the military of rigging the election in its favor — an accusation Mr. Khan and the military have both denied it. He ushered in a new foreign policy away from the United States and closer to Russia and China.
Khan’s relatively stable tenure began to wane late last year, as dissatisfaction with his way of handling the economy peaked and a dispute with the military over his leadership appeared to cost him his support.