Man-animal conflict

When Pakistani politician (and the most photographed captain ever of the Pakistani Cricket team) Imran Khan announced his third marriage to a lady described as a ‘spiritual healer’, there was a great deal of derisive laughter across social media platforms. Pakistan society was just about recovering from his hasty divorce from wife No 2, when the news broke. His latest wife (mother of five, Bushra Maneka aka Pinki Pir), seemed an unlikely candidate for the dashing Pathan. Their wedding pictures were equally intriguing if not downright comical, with a coy looking bridegroom, blushing and bashful, proudly gazing at his begum, who remained fully veiled.

Khan’s first marriage to Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of a London-based billionaire, had lasted nine years and produced two sons. His second marriage to television anchor Reham Khan was over in nine months. People in Pakistan speculated that the latest one would not last beyond nine weeks. Oh well... at least he confused his critics. Pinki Pir rushed back to her maternal home after a month or so. And, not much has been heard about her marital status since then.

The reason why marriage No 3 fell apart (according to Pakistani media), is because his new begum had successfully banished Imran’s pet dogs (they interfered with her religious activities), and his sisters (They interfered. Period) from his palatial Bani Gala residence. As anybody who has followed ‘Im the Dim’ ( a brutal description bestowed by the sneering British press when he dared to marry one of their most celebrated Sloane girls—Jemima) through his many misadventures will confirm—Khan has only been true and faithful to his pet dogs and loving sisters. Clearly, Pinki Pir was not happy with this devotion.

Imran Khan and Bushra Maneka | Imaging: Job P.K. Imran Khan and Bushra Maneka | Imaging: Job P.K.

I have met Khan a few times over the decades, and interviewed him for a television series I was hosting called ‘Power Trip’. Frankly, at no point did I find him ‘dim’. Vain and self-obsessed, yes. Naive and gullible, yes. But also, pretty articulate and well-read. He had devastating good looks, but, beyond his charisma, he nurtured rather strange beliefs about Islam and politics. I remember attending a fiery public address in Lahore, which had several top guns from business swooning at his feet. He had looked the part, dressed in a steel grey Pathan suit, a gauzy shawl carelessly flung over his left shoulder. We met briefly and talked about our mutual friends.

I asked my local friends in Lahore about his political future, and received a mixed response. Die-hard followers insisted he would become prime minister of Pakistan. Yes, even with his flimsy political reputation.

I reminded him of a sit down dinner in Mumbai, many moons ago, where our gorgeous hostess had placed me to Khan’s left (Goldie Hawn was on his right). The conversation was pretty bizarre. He had raved and ranted against the ‘corrupt west’ and the evil influence of western television. Hard to believe this was the same man who used to regularly party with international glitterati and hobnob with Bollywood’s top heroines! The same rakish cricket captain who had once checked into the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, in pursuit of Bollywood’s hottest sex symbol of the time (Zeenat Aman) who was staying there. He even posed shirtless for a cover story of a glossy I edited at the time! He looked grim and disapproving when I joked about it and said firmly, “That was then.’’ I continued to sip wine, while he piously stuck to water and more sermons. It was a very tedious, and definitely boring, evening.

Today, it seems his political career is as good as finito. And, the only way for Khan to stay relevant and stay in the news is to keep getting married. For all we know, Begum No 4 may be waiting in the wings. This time he had better make sure she gets to know and accept his pet dogs and doting sisters, before he takes the plunge!