Saturday Jan 12, 2019
LONDON: One of Imran Khan’s oldest friends and his “taxi driver” for many years has said he is proud that his friend is now the prime minister of Pakistan.
Muhammad Akram, famously known as “Akram the Black Cab driver” in UK’s Pakistani political circles, met Imran Khan in 1986 at Lord’s when few people knew him. The two struck a long-lasting friendship which saw Akram serving as a personal cab driver of Imran during his frequent visits to the UK.
“I was in Lord’s to watch a match and saw Imran being interviewed by a channel. I stood there to meet him. His friend told him that he will have to leave for a family commitment and I offered to drop Imran at his Kensington flat. We exchanged numbers when I dropped him and I picked him up again the next day to take him for practice,” Akram recalled his first meeting with the cricketer-turned-politician.
Imran was playing for the Sussex at that time and would spend most of his time in London for practise. He would take Akram with him for practise at Lord’s and for extensive exercise in Hyde Park and other places.
Imran would often call Akram prior to his departure from Pakistan for UK and would request him to pick him up from Heathrow airport. Akram was always there for his hero and leader and would drop him to Annabel Goldmsith’s House in Richmond and to his political and social engagements.
This continued until Imran was introduced to Zulfi Bukhari and others who owned Bentleys and limousines.
From 2012 onwards, Bukhari took over from Akram and has been picking and dropping the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader throughout his stay in London.
When asked how he felt when affluent people with flashy cars replaced his black cab, Akram said he has no regrets. “It’s best to compromise in life and be realistic. I cannot reach where these people are and I cannot match their wealth but that doesn’t matter to me. I am happy with my situation and happy for Imran Khan,” he added.
Akram was also not invited to PM Imran’s oath-taking ceremony although dozens of the premier’s friends and acquaintances from London, the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere were in attendance. Many had hoped that the senior PTI leadership will remember to invite Akram but there was no invitation.
Regarding not being invited, Akram said, “For me it’s more than enough that my friend has reached where he wanted to be. Nobody invited me but that’s fine, I don’t want to be part of photo sessions and publicity and I was proud when I saw Imran taking the oath. That was an emotional moment for me. Most of the people who were in the oath-taking ceremony or visit Bani Gala are the ones who are there for their self-projection. I have no complaints from Imran Khan and I never expected anything from him since he is so busy and has thousands of things on his mind. I always told him that many of his advisors around him are there for their own objectives and he always listened to me and I still maintain that.”
Akram also recalled the euphoria that erupted after Pakistan cricket team won the 1992 World Cup and Imran’s decision to set up Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital. Imran operated at that time from the Kensington flat and used the same apartment for his charity’s addresses. It’s from the same venue that Akram and many others volunteered to advance the cause of charity. There were only a handful of people with Imran and due to issues in communication at that time, volunteers faced daunting challenges to collect money. “I remember that donors used to call us on the office number and would ask us to collect cheques from them. I would note the details of people in London and would stop by to pick cheques during my trips with customers around those areas. That’s the kind of effort we put in at that time.”