I know that most mature and dignified commentators have taken the position that we really should not comment on Imran Khan’s recent marriage, and have argued that his personal life is private and separate from his public life. But I am not one of those commentators.
Imran Khan’s recent marriages (two in three years) and the way in which he and his party (PTI) have managed the issue of announcing these unions reflects on both their politics and their relationship with the truth.
It is almost uncanny that in both cases, there was prevarication about the actual date of the marriage. In the case of Reham Khan it was thought that they had married in late October 2014: Imran’s ex-wife Jemima Khan had mentioned the match on social media, and then Imran Khan had seemed to confirm it to reporters at Heathrow airport, yet he and his party then proceeded to evade questions about it and to even deny the marriage. Then in January 2015 with pictures of what seemed to be more photoshoot than wedding, news of the marriage was announced by the PTI.
The photos showed the couple dressed up in wedding finery, posing at Imran Khan’s residence with a couple of the bride’s relatives (this was unusual given that the ceremony usually takes place at the bride’s family residence with at least some of the groom’s relatives in attendance). Much was made of Khan being dressed up in a sherwani — and the question was asked: was this a preparation for wearing a prime ministerial sherwani?
This pretence about the wedding date carried on for two years but recently ex-wife Reham Khan publicly stated that the couple had actually been married on October 31 but she had been instructed not to reveal this and the official spiel would be that they married on January 6, 2014.
What was the reason for the prevarication? It was widely believed to be due to two factors: one that October 31 had been Muharram 7 on the Islamic calendar and that announcing the happy event in the month of religious mourning would not go down well with the electorate. The second was that it was just weeks before the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in which more than 140 people — students and staff — had been killed, and again a wedding announcement that is cause for celebration might not go down well with the electorate especially those in KP where Khan’s party was in government. Hence the denials, a late announcement and a photo shoot.
Almost exactly the same pattern was repeated in the case of Khan’s recent marriage to the ex-wife of a PML-N politician. A newspaper report about the wedding (the nikkah) was denied. Repeatedly. And the PTI supporters became quite abusive in their denials. The one thing Khan did concede however was that he had sent a proposal to the lady, and she had given him ‘spiritual and religious guidance’ in the past. The report by Umer Cheema in The News had claimed the nikkah took place on January 1, 2018. After many denials and recriminations the PTI then announced the marriage along with photographs on February 18. Again the matter of the actual date of the ceremony was glossed over, and the prevarication continued. Why all this was necessary is unclear.
Why should this matter? Don’t all public figures, especially male politicians, routinely lie about their private lives? They generally do but what is disturbing in this case is: a) the untruths and b) the lack of planning and impetuousness it reveals. If a politician and his party are so concerned about the timing of his nuptials in a public opinion context, then why not plan these accordingly? At some point the public might well think all the spin is unnecessary and even an insult to their intelligence.
The game goes on: the politicians continue to deny bank accounts, marriages and properties. And deny… and deny and deny. Gentlemen, thou all doth protest too much…