Pakistan: Will Reham Khan be Imran Khan’s nemesis?

Imran Khan has bowled over quite a few maidens in his life. But the leak of an alleged manuscript of a book by Reham Khan could be the yorker that shatters his political ambitions once and for all

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Muzamal Suharwardy, Lahore

Imran Khan, the flamboyant cricketer and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, has bowled over quite a few maidens in his life. But the leak of an alleged manuscript of a book, written by his former wife and television news anchor Reham Khan could be the Yorker that shatters his political ambitions once and for all.

The leaks are explosive, have already created a tsunami in the Pakistani press and have become the hot topic of gossip in social and family gatherings in Pakistan. PTI and Imran’s supporters are calling this a malicious plan hatched by Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), which they allege has paid Reham to pen this book just before elections are about to be held in the country.

The former BBC weather girl and a mother of three from an earlier marriage allegedly accessed Imran’s personal Blackberry phone and gleaned data from it including chat and email details. The names of some of the chapters are quite self-explanatory. “Girls, Boys, Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll” and “The Cocaine and Heroin” are two such examples. Imran’s Khan’s cricketing career has been dotted with sex scandals and affairs.

However, ever since he has joined politics, Imran has rebranded his image as a transformed man and a pious Muslim to appeal to the electorate. Reham tears that apart, alleging that the leader of the conservative Islamic party has actually given political positions to women in the party in lieu of sexual favours. Though no names have come out, the grapevine in Pakistan has it that some names are in the book. She has allegedly even said that Imran has sexual relations with men (boys) in elaborate description of the nightlife of Imran’s residence in the Bani Gala area near near Islamabad.

The book also allegedly has something about veteran cricketer Wasim Akram’s sexual fantasy involving his wife, now deceased. It describes the legendary fast bowler as a cuckold. Reham has also claimed that Imran had kept his marriage to faith healer Bushra Maneka under wraps for two months and was vague about it when pressed for an answer. She has also alleged that while he was married to Reham, Imran was having an affair with Bushra. This constitutes a violation of Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution and he can’t contest the elections, she was quoted as saying by the Pakistani media. There is a chapter in the book called “The National Sister in Law”, which apparently has damaging content on the influence Imran’s sister’s on the decisions of their brother. It is an open secret in Pakistan that Imran’s sisters were against the marriage of Imran and Reham and that they did not even attend the ceremony. They never even invited Reham to their homes. It is believed by a large section of Pakistani society that they had a hand to play in the divorce between Imran and Reham.

The book also apparently has derogatory references to Imran’s teenaged sons from his marriage with British heiress and socialite Jemima Goldsmith. Jemima has apparently threatened to sue Reham if the book says anything bad about her sons. Reham has also written in the book on Pakistan’s media and its top anchors. She has apparently said that most anchors barring a few were in the pockets of the Pakistani Intelligence agency (ISI) and received handouts and plots of land in lieu of them towing the military’s line. Till now, as per media reports, Reham Khan has been served a legal notice by Ijaz Rehman, her first husband who is a doctor in England, Wasim Akram, British businessman Zulfikar Bukhari and PTI International Media Coordinator Anila Khawaja for alleged contents of her book. The notice issued by British law firm Sweetman Burke and Sinker on May 30 says that each of them received copies of the manuscript for her book from an anonymous source.

The book contains “a litany of malicious, false, incorrect, highly misleading, callous, wanton, tortious, prejudicial, damaging, libellous, and defamatory imputations” directed towards the filers. It also says that actor Hamza Ali Abbasi, former MNAs Murad Saeed and Asad Umer, politician Pervez Khattak, Senator Mohsin Aziz, PTI social media team member Umer Farooq, socialite Yousaf Salahuddin and Zakir Khan may approach her separately with legal notices in Pakistan due to jurisdictional aspects.The details include “defamatory imputations” towards Bukhari, who is accused in the manuscript of arranging an abortion for a young woman allegedly impregnated by Imran.

PML(N) president and former Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, who is now the party’s prime ministerial candidate after the disqualification of former PM Nawaz Sharif, when asked about Reham Khan and her book by National Herald, said that he has had only one meeting with her when she was a TV show host for PTV in 2014. “She came along with the then PTV MD Abdul Malick to interview me for her programme.” He added that he has never met Reham khan since then and has had no contact with her while iterating that Reham Khan and her book were her personal issues and were between her and Imran Khan.

Accusations of Rehman’s violence and cruelty towards Reham are also mentioned. The notice refers to a contradiction within the book regarding the timeline of when the alleged violent conduct began. Khawaja is accused in the book of having had an illicit affair with PTI chief Imran and exerting enormous control over him. The notice claims Reham called her “chief of the harem” in the manuscript. The notice provides Reham with 14 days to meet various conditions to avoid further action. These include agreeing not to publish the manuscript in its current form, and to remove the alleged defamatory passages while confirming in writing to the filers that the allegations in the manuscript are refuted as false and defamatory and will not be repeated in the published book. It also requires an undertaking that she will not create any further defamatory material, will provide details about the sources of her manuscript, and details of any websites where the manuscript in its current form may be posted.

She has also been asked to make proposals for the payment of damages if any details from the manuscript leak online, while providing an undertaking to monitor and delete any defamatory content for which she may be responsible. Reham Khan’s initial introduction in Pakistan was in the form of a TV host. A looker in her mid 40’s, she apparently made good use of her BBC antecedents to gain access to top politicians including Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan, being a largely conservative society, also looked at her as a Briton of Pakistani origin, who wore short dresses and partied hard.

When she got married to Imran, the latter had to swallow a lot of criticism from his own party supporters who fished out old YouTube videos of the pretty lady dancing and mixing with men. Her marriage to Imran, leader of Pakistan’s second largest political party, brought her to the centrestage of Pakistani politics in no time. She became very vocal and active in PTI politics, apparently much to the disapproval of her then husband. She even started addressing public gatherings by herself in the absence of Imran. She gave interviews and tweeted every day on political developments of Pakistan. Soon, people started to think of her as the undisputed number two in the PTI party. Party insiders and media personalities tell National Herald that Imran did not like this meteoric rise of Reham. Nonetheless, it was in such a situation that senior journalist Arif Nizami dropped a bomb in his talk show. He said Imran’s marriage was over and that the couple was divorcing soon. Imran and PTI promptly denied so and the couple started appearing in public with unprecedented regularity to dispel the ‘rumours’. But Nizami stuck to his guns and said the news was authentic. And he was right. The divorce came within a few weeks. Im ran apparently divorced Reham via an SMS text while she was in a flight from Islamabad to London. She apparently turned her phone on after landing in London and received the message. The nine-month marriage was over. Imran, of course, could not have imagined that his wife of nine months would become the biggest barrier before him and the Pakistan PM’s chair. But the contents of her book are so explosive that they can burn down Imran’s political future for good.

The core votebank of Imran’s PTI party are the rightwing religious Muslims. Imran has had to work extremely hard to recreate his image as a changed man, a pious Muslim who preaches Islam. In the run-up to this comng election, he has constantly mentioned that a leader should stick to high moral standards. In such circumstances, the publication of such a book may bury all his credibility in the ground. Imran’s PTI camp is afraid and the opposition has been training its guns on him and his party ever since parts of the manuscript became public. PTI leaders are, predictably, in a state of panic. They are just saying that Reham Khan has been paid by Nawaz Sharif ’s PML(N) to scupper PTI’s chances in the elections but to be honest, that’s as weak a defence as it can be. Never has, in the annals of Pakistani politics, a book played such a huge role in deciding the fate of the national elections. The pen is mightier than the sword, a lot of people contend. This is possibly one time when the pen has become the sword and Imran Khan may find himself at the receiving end of its blade.

The author is a senior journalist based in Pakistan

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Published: 22 Jun 2018, 1:49 PM