Imran Khan’s former wife, Reham Khan, is out for vengeance, spewing distilled venom against him and his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Ever since the alleged manuscript of her forthcoming book was leaked anonymously about a fortnight ago, there has been excitement among opponents, and consternation among supporters, of the cricketer-turned-politician who is widely perceived to be Pakistan's next prime minister. The as-yet-untitled book has attracted sustained prime time attention from the country’s fiercely competitive and deeply divided television networks. This has not stopped strong opposition from PTI supporters who claim it to be a part of an international conspiracy – purpotedly by the United States, India and Israel in collusion with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif – to derail Imran Khan’s electoral prospects.
Sexual misdemeanours, secret marriages and clandestine carnal rendezvous are not uncommon among Pakistan’s political elite, many of whom hail from feudal backgrounds where such malfeasance is almost expected. However, Imran Khan, despite being known for his playboy past is being judged by a rather different yardstick as the raunchy details that are allegedly contained in the book are causing a ruckus. Otherwise, it is common knowledge that his main rival from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Mian Shahbaz Sharif, brother of now legally disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has been involved in several love affairs; Shahbaz, who was until recently the chief minister of Punjab, had once forced a staff officer from the police to divorce his wife to marry his paramour only to divorce her later. Shahbaz's son, Hamza Shahbaz, has also married several women and then dumped them unceremoniously. Only last week, after the Sharifs' government ended and a caretaker setup took over, that a court in Lahore directed that an FIR be registered against Hamza for violence and threats against Ayesha Ahad, a woman he had secretly married, and then refused to accept as a legally-wedded wife. When Ahad threatened to go public, she was kidnapped and tortured by Hamza and his henchmen. The courts didn't entertain her desperate petitions for justice until last week.
Reham Khan claims that her desire to speak up is motivated to seek changes in the male-dominated political culture, and to empower women. But the leaked contents suggest she may be driven by revenge and is likely seeking destruction of Imran Khan’s political career when elections are just weeks away. In a recent television interview, she suggested that her book will talk about sex and sleaze, and how flesh favours are traded within the PTI to advance or obliterate people’s political fortunes and progress their trajectories. If the leaks are to be believed, she has accused her former husband of being involved in same-sex relationships as well as being carnally involved with the party's female cadre. A leading Islamist-leaning Urdu daily, Ummat, quoted Reham as claiming that Imran dated his third and current wife while still being married to her.
The leaked contents suggest she (Reham Khan) may be driven by revenge and is likely seeking destruction of Imran Khan’s political career when elections are just weeks away. In a recent television interview, she suggested that her book will talk about sex and sleaze, and how flesh favours are traded within the PTI to advance or obliterate people’s political fortunes and progress their trajectories
The marriage between Imran and Reham Khan failed to reach an anniversary milestone. In fact, during the 10-month period that the marriage legally survived, conjugal bliss lasted for less than three months. The rest of the time was spent in estrangement as the then Mrs Khan ambitiously sought to control the party and even tried to wade into the decision-making process. So it is uncanny that Reham’s book mainly focusses on her short-lived and fleeting marriage. And to turn it into what seems like a tabloid-style, kiss-and-tell strengthens the PTI supporters' argument that its real purpose is to rig people’s emotions, otherwise very favourable towards Mr Khan and his party.
Apparently, in the book, Reham has not spared her first husband of 12 years, Ejaz Rehman; Imran’s first wife Jemima Goldsmith; and several PTI members. This recently led to the initiation of a ‘Pre-Action Defamation Protocol’ letter in the UK that directed Reham to desist from the publication of the book in its current form and remove the defamatory material. Jemima Goldsmith, Imran’s first wife, also threatened Reham of serious legal consequences should she go ahead with the publication of the libellous material against her and her children.
Mubeen Rashid, a UK-based Pakistani journalist with whom the idea of the book started nearly three years ago, told me that as the book progressed, Rehman grew bitter towards Imran and she filled the manuscript with slanderous but unsubstantiated claims. Mubeen claims to have tried to persuade Reham to focus on the book rather than on seeking revenge, and when his attempts to persuade her failed, he quietly separated from the project in early 2017. According to Mubeen, the manuscript was so filled with wild fantasy that no UK publisher was even willing to touch it for fear of possible legal repercussions. This caused the idea to be shelved, and there was no news about it. It was only after the elections were announced that Reham suddenly rediscovered her manuscript. As soon as the alleged version got leaked, PTI supporters attributed it to foul play by the disgraced former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. Such voices became louder as it became clear that the book is aimed at causing maximum damage and disrepute to PTI in the upcoming elections.
A few days ago, a senior Pakistani journalist and a former spokesperson in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, Jan Achakzai, claimed to possess evidence that links Reham’s book to the PML-N leadership with an aim to frustrate the PTI. The strategy appears to have partially succeeded considering that for the past two weeks, the PTI has invested much time and energy in firefighting the impact caused by the alleged leaks. It now seems that the dust is settling since the PTI has managed to rubbish the contents in the public imagination, and has succeeded in building a narrative against Reham that she is an untrustworthy individual, loaded with a desire for vengeance. Well-known and non-partisan journalist Rauf Klasra has written a series that is laden with intimate, inside details that portrays Reham as untruthful and guileful. Many others – not necessarily associated with the PTI – have also come to the aid of Imran Khan who seems unmoved by the brouhaha. Under the circumstances, the book, even if released before the elections as planned, has lost its power to cause any commotion beyond what it has already provoked.
(Murtaza Shibli tweets @murtaza_shibli)
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