Why are we as a nation so obsessed with Imran Khan’s marriage?

Published: January 6, 2015

All was well and good, until the minute her name was linked with Imran Khan. And then she was dragged through the mud.

The New Year has begun, and by all indications, Pakistan is going to be as messed up in 2015 as it was in 2014, 2013, 2012… you get the idea. Things don’t look good for this beloved banana republic of ours, with terrorists breathing down our neck, military courts and death penalties, economic woes, and foreign policy Gordian knots that just keep tying themselves up again the moment someone brings a sword this way.

Yet the one matter of greatest importance on everyone’s minds (and tongues) is the marriage of Imran Khan. “Did he or didn’t he?” has surpassed “To be or not to be” in the ranking of soliloquies, drawing room chatter is all about the PTI leader’s relationship with the lovely Reham Khan, and news anchors are throwing all manner of coy hints that they knew about it before it happened, and that they still know more about it than we do but aren’t going to tell us exactly what they know (shades of Donald Rumsfeld).

There’s something very childish in all of this speculation. In many countries, people believe that a politician’s private life is his own matter. Not so Pakistan, where we have no sense of boundaries, privacy, or personal space. Here, we tend to think that a politician’s religious status and relationship status are one and the same, in that both are matters for public consumption. And especially in the case of Imran Khan, people think that his personal life is their public property.

I’m not saying Imran Khan is completely innocent in this state of affairs. He’s lived and loved fully, and it’s common knowledge, which is part of the territory of being a celebrity. He announced from the top of his container towards the end of the dharnas that he wanted to get married, which some claim makes the matter of his marriage part of the public domain.

Fair enough.

Khan also capitalises on his own reputation as a ladies’ man, using it in not so subtle ways to gain the loyalty of his many admirers; turning that admiration into political capital. Whatever it takes — and any politician who’s lucky enough to be good-looking would do the same.

But here’s where it gets tricky: the double standards in Pakistan towards the freedom of men versus the repression of women have complicated things needlessly for the Kaptaan. And he’s finding that the freedom he enjoyed as a man doesn’t extend to the woman he supposedly wants to make his wife.

By all accounts Reham Khan is a woman who has also lived fully. She’s been married before, just like Khan, and has three children. She was a presenter and meteorologist for the BBC in the UK (I refuse to demean her with the sexist term “weather girl”), and was on her way to being a minor celebrity in that media-obsessed culture. Then she moved to Pakistan, where she got a job anchoring for ARY.

She is a good-looking, vibrant and educated woman, and is the very opposite of the village virgin that most Imran Khan supporters think is the only kind of person “good enough” for a man who’s hardly lived a monk’s life. And good for him, if he found this kind of woman more appealing than a young woman not much older than a child. A man who isn’t threatened by a woman’s desire to live life on her own terms is a man who is more secure in his masculinity than an insecure man who needs to have a blank canvas as a partner.

All was well and good, until the minute her name was linked with Imran Khan. And then she was dragged through the mud. Detractors of the politician dug up old photos of Reham wearing dresses and a video showing her dancing the tango at some sort of charity event. The worst kind of slander flew about her character and what she had to do to get into the BBC (baseless, without proof, and extremely sexist). Some of this came from his detractors, but much of the anger came from PTI supporters who felt betrayed that this might be Khan’s choice of life partner.

“We want what’s best for him and she isn’t it!” was the refrain.

It was like listening to an angry mother-in-law claiming that a wicked woman had “phassa-oed” her innocent son.

Kudos to her for having handled this pretty gracefully; many people would crack under the strain. Imran Khan’s been the one showing the pressure, as he refuses to confirm or deny the rumours that they got married somewhere back in the later part of 2014. We keep being told there will be a “big announcement” soon and in the meantime all sorts of ridiculous speculation is going on that he flew to London to get ex Jemima’s “blessings”, that his family is angry with him, so on and so forth.

All of this is really pretty pathetic when you see it for what it is: a nation stupidly obsessed with one man’s private life. Is it because we really care so much for Kaptaan’s well-being and want to choose his partner for him because we know better who’s right for him? Is it because we might be jealous that he didn’t choose one of us instead?

Or is it because speculating about his marriage is a lot more fun than actually having to face the hard truths about where this nation is really going?

I’ll let you be the judge. Heaven forbid I should actually tell you what to think, or do.

This post originally appeared here.


Bina Shah

Author of A Season For Martyrs. She tweets @BinaShah (twitter.com/BinaShah)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Adil Mansoor

    Wow ma’am you just gave the most amazing details. Recommend

  • Ilyas

    This is exactly why I love our country’s citizens !! So much useful discussion and gossip on stuff that can affect the lives of so many people. If only ET could dedicate half of their site to news items related to Imran Khan’s personal life and other such important current affairs, our nation would not be in the current quagmire it is in. I wholeheartedly support our citizens quest in wanting to hear such informative news.

    PS: Please keep us all updated as to when they intend on marrying, where they are planning on doing it, what they are going to wear and also as to who all would be attendingRecommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Brilliant. I was thinking of writing on this as well. It was absolutely disgusting the way they assassinated her character. By some chance let’s say the news is true, it will be mud on the PTI trolls’ collective faces.

    And really, what does it matter what she did with her personal life. I see nothing that makes her a bad person.

    We hide behind beards and headscarves when we are worse. She didn’t hide anything.

    Do the PTI trolls realize that Imran Khan’s personal choices aren’t any different. Not that it matters, but why judge your leader by different standards?

    Again, if the news is true, it will be the case of PTI trolls biting their own leadership on the rear.Recommend

  • Omer

    “”I refuse to demean her with the sexist term “weather girl”””
    I think you just did.Recommend

  • Tanzeel Ahmad

    By the way Has #NayaPakistan created ?Recommend

  • Engineer

    A man who isn’t threatened by a woman’s desire to live life on her own terms is a man who is more secure in his masculinitythan an insecure man who needs to have a blank canvas as a partner.
    hahahaha good one.. even the devil thought she wont know it…Recommend

  • rabia

    great articleRecommend

  • Syed Minhas Mahmood

    This is not pretty pathetic. If this is then the marriage of every celebrity from Prince Charles and Kate middleton & the marriage ofDavid Beckham and many others which were broad casted for many many days were all stupid.U see when a person is a celebrity he doesn’t remain an individual. This is not only in Pakistan but in whole world.Recommend

  • Shehzad

    It’s not that hard to fathom – Imran is the biggest celebrity that Pakistan has had – so his life has always been, and will always be, a public matter. Even going back about 3 decades to my childhood this was one of the most talked about topic in the nation and we can find many clips online where the likes of Moin Akhtar and Anwar Maqsood dwelled over this on length. But it needs to be said that this Is not unique to Pakistan. Celebrities and famous people all over the world get their personal lives scrutinized – it’s just that in Pakistan we just don’t have many such personalities who can command nation’s attention for long other than Imran.Recommend

  • Naveed

    The use of term “nation” is an exaggeration. Its only the pti supporters who are concerned, and they hardly represent the nation.
    Even if we have to use the term anyways, karmoo the farmer doesnt give a crap nor does khuda baksh.
    The only people who worry are quite stupid and they are the ones who created the double standards you refer to. It would be appropriate if you direct your views towards that small concerned group rather than the nation.Recommend

  • gabriel

    God, he looks like her dad. But ‘power’ and ‘money’ talk, I guess. He’s 62 years, she is 42 years of age-well, she got the ‘fame’. Now she needs to live up to it.Recommend

  • Manal Farrukh Khan

    A. Excellent write up, solid points, great reminder about misplaced priorities. B. Reham Khan deserves all the privacy, support, and respect. She is no doubt graceful, articulate, progressive and intelligent. C. However, the problem lies with Imran’s right wing politics, his tactics of using Islam to exploit his vote bank, his demands for shariat, of holding talks and opposing bills which empower women. He wants to pull us back, exploiting religious sentiments of the masses and stalling any kind of progress. When stem cell research is discussed in Pakistan, the knee jerk response is, “is it allowed in Islam”. He contributed to a religious obsession, which became a mindset that now frightens and intimidates and in his personal life, he chooses someone who does not fit the bill. I mean, its all about hypocrisy. Accept that yes, I am a normal moderate guy and not the fundo I project myself to be, for extracting your votes. Thats all we want from him.Recommend

  • Grammar Police

    Finally, some sense of sanity.

    Utterly moronic how some people are offended as if they should’ve been asked before, who Imran Khan should fall in ‘love’ with!

    It’s his damn choice.Recommend

  • Far Right

    It isn’t really PTI supporters hating on Reham Khan, it’s haters of Imran Khan such as Noonies and Pseudo-liberal critics of Imran Khan who are slinging mud at Reham.Recommend

  • Far Right

    Not all or even most of the haters were “PTI trolls”, many were pseudo-liberal trolls on social media slinging mud at Reham Khan.

    This isn’t a case of PTI ‘trolls’ biting their own leader on the rear, this is a case of pseudo-liberals in Pakistan showing their true misogynistic, hypocritical face.Recommend

  • Humza

    You are mistaken if you think politicians’ private lives are their own matter in Western countries. Once they enter the public sphere, their private lives are scrutinized in each and every detail . Read any Western newspaper or tabloid! I always laugh when people in Pakistan seem to think that such and such behavior is unique to Pakistan.I think people in Pakistan and others are disappointed with Imran Khan because he was playing with the destiny of a nation and millions of people, some of whom died while he was ostensibly tying the knot and courting Reham Khan. He deceived his sisters and family as much as the nation. Character matters for a leader. Imran Khan’s character is called into question because of poor choices and rash behaviour. I am glad his dharnas failed.Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    Its not his private life any more. He carries the aspirations of his fans & followers on his shoulders. A decision of this nature had to be done according to the Islamic norms & customs. You just don’t marry on the sly. He has terribly let us all down.Recommend

  • MJ

    Imran is a celebrity and his life has and will be making NEWS headlines. If he wanted to keep the matter private, he would have not been dropping hints from the top of a container.Recommend

  • Aliza Khan

    what is it with you lot……. You have just contradicted yourself ‘ALL the Pakistanis who are obsessed with IK’s marriage news’ YET you have just written a whole article on the topic…… There are other important issues in Pakistan and NO one with a bit of brain would worry about who is marrying who…. Reham spread the news herself and the rest is history ….Recommend

  • Irum

    have no issue of Imrans khans marriage whatsoever
    that it is with Reham Khan.

    My issue is all this is happened during
    Dharna. Where he has made all this Azaadi march life and death issue. People
    did die as a direct result of this movement. Lost of Billions of rupees and
    many human lives. The rhetoric from Imran Khan was he will die but he will not
    go back.

    And during all this he was engaged in full
    time romance with Reham Khan. That is my issue and issues of others.Recommend

  • Parvez

    ….and only you could have said it so eloquently.
    On Imran Khan……its publicity ( not that he needs it ) and there is no such thing as bad publicity.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    On one side is the nation which wants to idolize their hero. On the other are the media outlets who want to get better ratings by digging up dirt on her. There is no way anyone is leaving this be.Recommend

  • Skazmi Skazmi

    brilliant article.. we have sick minded people in Pakistan. people pretending Khan’s Marriage as he has done some sin which is blasphemous. And actually our people have nothing to do, except pointing out other characters and finding pleasures by putting some mirch masala. Whether it comes to Khan or it comes to other politician, actresses etc, here everyone becomes Molana and start giving fatwas, ignoring their own lives what actually is happening inside their lives.. Seriously, this nation can never be change because their mindsets are developed under such hypocrisy and double and low standards.. they are called Lowlife people..Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    why does he need Jemmima’s blessings? Did she take his when she was having affair with so many men?Recommend

  • Saad Kiani

    Insafians are happy for IK. These are IK haters who are raking her character through mud and saying “ptians have got their second’Ammi’/mother.Hurrah!”Recommend

  • fze

    Marraying is not blasphemous but not making it public sure is. The religion that we follow binds us to announce it when ‘nikah’ is solemnized.Recommend

  • Daniel

    I agree with Irum. Finally someone got it right. Conveniently the media and Reham herself is focusing on the issue of marriage not being a sin and ignoring it has nothing to do with that. The bottom line is that IK with his talk of sacrifice for this nation actually had the time to pursue a romance at a time when the nation was out on streets in whatever weather taking bullets etc is what is very disappointing. IK too is very easily ignoring that. Plz IK leave Sunnat Rasool and infedility talk….the issue here is that we as a nation thought you were focused at a very critical time in our nation that you led us to believe that is the only thing you had on your mind and to find out the way we did that you pursued and got married at dharna feels like we were stupid to put aside our personal lives and follow you blindly. Its time the Khan couple address that. Clearly IK knows it but is too guilty to admit and is hiding behind stupid explanantions. After all if he did nothing wrong then why hide it all these months. It would probably have been hidden longer if it hadn’t been for the media leak. I’ve said this before and again….plz donot equate or even link IK with Quaid…Quaid truly sacrificed his personal life for this nation which given IK’s timing and pursuit clearly IK is not about ‘my life for this nation’ rhertoric.Recommend

  • muhammad khan

    Why pti people were slinging mud of unmarried,young Bilawal?Recommend

  • hammurabi

    Blaming Imran for romance during Dharna is illogical.People in offices work and romance goes on along with.It is the best choice Imran has made, Congrats to him..Recommend

  • FAH

    Ummm what are you even talking about? IK stayed in pakistan and lead the sit in for 126 days..Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Actually, you could be right in that it may just be a mix. But I know a lot of the hate came from PTI trolls because at the time the info was rumored they insisted it was a conspiracy to malign their leader.Recommend

  • Akif Mansoor

    OK EVERY ONE over here and on many more more blogs are right. Would every one now please stop discussing very personal/private matter of both Khans??Recommend

  • Hammurabi

    @Lt Col Imtiaz
    You need to revisit Islamic history.What is un -Islamic in Imran”s marriage?What kind of s;y? Every thing is transparent.Recommend

  • Vinod

    Very funny.Recommend

  • Vinod

    Imran looks much younger here.Has he been touched upRecommend

  • Ansar Mehmood

    What’s is transparent in front of foreign media and foreign peoples? Why he lied his own media a couple days before his marriage that he has not going to marry in next couple of months due to Peshawar incident and his sister confidently reject the rumors of his marriage? On arrival of britain airport he said to foreing people and foreign media that he is going to marry? Where is Pakistan first and his people? I have no problem with his marriage that his right but I am in deep shocked that the person we consider is our true leader got married less then a month when our 140 plus children martyr in Peshawar. I can’t forgive him because he play with people of Pakistan emotions.. No more support to IK.. His thinking is western which can’t be change.Recommend

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    Hindu Pandit Gave Beautiful Speech Of our Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.)


  • Ak

    What IK does with his private life is private IK would have waited for a few months or years if the media and other political parties hadn’t dragged Reham Khan through the mud, if he would have announced his relationship and said will get married in the future they would have said it’s an unislamic relationship.

  • GIGfriend22

    cause its true!Recommend

  • GIGfriend22

    Some would call that romantic. Perhaps it Pakistan it would be so considering the lack of educated culture and depravity. Never the less, What I am concerned more about, is he did this on a pushwar massacre watch. And was the one supporting negotiations with TTP….. Pakistan why are you not talking about this?Recommend