Le Divorce

Fayes T Kantawala refuses to blame Reham Khan

Le Divorce
Let us turn our attention to the news that rocks the nation (other than, well, you know, the earthquake…): Reham Khan and Imran Khan are now divorced, thus proving that tabdeeli does indeed begin at home.

Their marriage lasted a little less than a year, or a little over seven months if you’re a glass-half-full person. It has been stressed that this is a difficult time for all involved and that everyone should just calm down and let them have their privacy at this emotionally draining, heart-wrenchingly sad time. Before we address that, I want to take you back to Imran Khan standing on a container, shouting to everyone about corruption but usually only when it applied to his enemies. See him? There he is, grinning and basking in adulation and attention. He got up on that container every night to give a speech for months. (Tangent: did someone keep a track of that container? Is it destined for the Relics and Fossils section of the Lahore Museum?) It’s difficult to keep coming up with new talking points for anyone, and I imagine this is especially true for Imran Khan since he doesn’t seem to have many. During that time he announced to the roaring ovaries in the crowd that he would only marry again once his demands were met. The effect was twofold. One, it portrayed Imran Khan as desirable and therefore electable. Two, it convinced those inclined in the crowd that they might have a shot at being a FLOP, ie the First Lady Of Pakistan. It’s brilliant if you think about it. The reason it stuck in my mind is that it was the first instance where Imran Khan had publicly intertwined his love life with his political goals. It’s because of that that I think it’s quite expected that his marriage (or lack thereof) is newsworthy: he very consciously made it a part of his political campaign.
The Imran-Khan's-controlling-sisters-vs-Reham-Khan boxing match that’s being set up reeks
of political spin

Shortly after that moment in the dharna, his marriage was announced to Reham Khan, a TV anchor and mother of three. And I wasn’t surprised in the least. I believed it to be a calculated, carefully plotted pit stop on his imagined road to premiership. A clever one, really. He needed to quell any kind of rumors that being a single man may inspire (what these are I will not elaborate) and show himself to be a family man and therefore trustworthy/electable. When I voiced this opinion, I was told I was a heartless cynic stomping on the beating heart of what was clearly Love, capital L. “Can’t you see what’s happening?” I often (silently) asked these people. Aren’t you the least bit suspicious when a politician makes a public show of marriage? Is it cynical to ask the question about whether it’s real or rather plain stupid not to?

The only thing I could say out loud was, in the immortal words of Tina Turner, “what’s love got to do with it”?

He needs a wife, they would say, and then add a hopeful “He’s finally settling down Mashallah”.

Aside from Malala he is the biggest international celebrity Pakistan has ever produced, although Benazir Bhutto at her prime was probably bigger than both. He is also, need I remind you, a former international athlete who was famously good-looking and married a British heiress with whom he has two sons. Sex appeal was always part of his aura. Frankly, I’d be disappointed if there weren’t rumors about his love life all the time.

Reham Khan
Reham Khan

What is problematic about the way the divorce was covered in the Pakistani press was how Reham Khan was treated. Her foray into speaking at political meetings and rallies was taken unkindly, to put it mildly. Why, I am not sure. That she would eventually have played a large part in party politics was, I believe, a reason she was brought on in the first place. I suspect that, given the backlash against her when she began campaigning, her stock plummeted. Perhaps that’s when Team Khan began thinking they had made a mistake.

But op-eds in Pakistani publications have been painting her as a conniving, money-hungry, power-grabbing spouse and the whole thing is just rampant with double standards and misogyny. She married Khan, a political figure (it’s still hard for me to call him that without gagging a little). It is simply wrong to blame her for taking an interest in politics! Why is it that we use the word ‘ambitious’ for her as if it’s a bad thing, as if anything other than sitting in front of wood burning over stoking the fires of non-confrontational domesticity is a crime? It’s a facile, closed-minded thought.  Furthermore, the frankly appalling rumors about her beating Imran Khan are silly and probably the concoction of his PR team. The Imran-Khan’s-controlling-sisters-vs-Reham-Khan boxing match that’s being set up reeks of political spin. Have you noticed how the narrative is pitting women against each other, completely absolving Imran Khan of any involvement? It would be impressive, tactically speaking, if it weren’t so repulsive.

There has also been a lot of talk about money, about Reham Khan blackmailing Imran Khan and his people lest she write a book about the whole thing. I, for one, would love for her to write a book (“Running Khan”, “The Crane and the Lovebirds”, “Changeling”, “Love in the time of Dharna”) but I don’t think that’ll happen, mainly because someone like Khan, who lived through celebrity 80s, would know the value of Non-Disclosure Agreements and, more importantly, Pre-nuptial Agreements. Perhaps even more pertinently — and this has been getting more obvious over the last couple of weeks — Jemima Goldsmith née Khan new Goldsmith knows about the importance of pre-nups and disclosure agreements.

Ivana Trump taught the world that a divorce is a war. That may be true, but I don’t think Reham Khan is the enemy here.

Write to thekantawala@gmail.com