In Brief

Imran Khan: why a tell-all memoir is causing uproar in Pakistan

Book by his ex-wife reportedly threatens bid to become nation’s next prime minister

The imminent release of a tell-all memoir by the ex-wife of prospective Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has rocked the country’s political establishment.

The autobiography by Reham Khan, the second wife of the former Pakistan cricket captain, “claims to lift the lid on their relationship, with salacious allegations about their private life, including accusations of infidelity”, says The Times.

The sports star-turned-politician’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI), or Pakistan Movement for Justice, has been viewed as the main challenger to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). However, “the buzz created by the book and the sensational allegations by Reham could effectively derail Imran Khan’s chances for any success in the upcoming general election in July”, says news website DNA India.

Reham, a former BBC weather presenter, recently told Pakistan’s Geo TV channel that she was being bullied by her former husband’s supporters. “[They] have chosen the wrong woman to go after,” she said. “I will not tolerate baseless allegations by PTI. I challenge PTI to prove a single allegation against me.”

Reham claims copies of her manuscript was stolen by hackers, on the orders of the PTI, days before the anticipated publication date. Alleged extracts from the book were leaked to Pakistani broadcasters, prompting her to seek an injunction to prevent further publication. PTI has flatly denied the hacking claim.

According to The Guardian, Reham told India’s CNN18 television network that the book focused on “sexual coercion and how it is used, how sexual favours are used for political positions, for media positions, and some of them are directly related to PTI”.

She also said that if Khan were to become PM, it would be very dangerous for Pakistan.

However, in a separate interview with German newspaper Deutsche Welle, Khan’s ex said the memoir was not exclusively focused on the politician. She explained: “The book tells the story of my life, my experiences, and my journey through different continents, different cultures. My marriages are a part of my life and so have been included in the book. It is an honest account.”

She also denied that the timing of the book release has anything to do with the upcoming elections. “Firstly, we do not know if the elections will take place at all this year. Secondly, it took me a while to put down painful memories on paper,” she told the newspaper in March, prior to the announcement that the vote would be held on 25 July.

“It was like scratching a wound. I think that the people in Pakistan, policymakers and [foreign] investors should learn from my experiences. If there are to be elections this year, I think the book will be very helpful to all those who want an insight [into Pakistan],” Reham added this week.

The PTI is calling for the memoir to be banned in Pakistan, and has threatened to sue Reham in Britain on defamation charges. A number of legal notices against her have already been filed in Pakistani courts.

“His supporters allege the book falsely maligns him as a liar and hypocrite”, and fear that the allegations “could hurt Imran’s appeal among Pakistan’s conservative urban middle-class”, says The Guardian.

With the election race thought to be one of the closest in years, “the PTI is convinced that Ms Khan and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz aimed to publish just before polling day to torpedo Mr Khan’s challenge”, adds The Times.

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