Reham Khan versus ex-husband: Who is the saint and the sinner?

Published: January 15, 2015

Reham Khan's ex-husband denied the allegations, claiming that he has never hit anyone and has never been involved in any form of domestic abuse.

Over the past couple weeks, countless blogs and articles have been written about Imran Khan’s recent marriage to British journalist Reham Khan, where focus has been placed more on criticising Mr Khan’s choice, rather than the congratulatory aspect of the marriage itself.

When it comes to celebrities, prominent public figures and politicians, matters pertaining to marriage are no longer private; everyone wants to get a piece of that hot pie; the bigger the pie, the better. And Imran’s marriage to Reham has indeed been a hot topic of discussion, with much criticism I must add, as of late.

Much of that disparagement has especially been directed towards Reham, and the fact that Imran chose to marry her, out of all the prospective “chaste” women in the world. The major mudslinging is related to Reham being a divorcee – which is often viewed with much disdain when it comes to re-marrying, usually in the women’s case, because, really, who cares if the man is divorced, right?

They reviled her for wearing short-length dresses and for dancing with strange men in public; they went as far as calling her a ‘lesbian’, intended to be an insult, considering that homosexuality in Pakistan is greatly ostracised. Some vicious trolls even attacked her daughter, branding her a ‘porn star’. And while some of these allegations against Reham may be true, for the most part they are false; they are stories simply created out of detestation in order to defame her, most likely for marrying Imran.

However, despite everything I’ve read thus far about their marriage, the dismaying part about this whole ordeal is that many people – Pakistanis, I must add – are not only willing to believe every single negative assertion against her, but are also willing to disbelieve whatever assertions that Ms Khan herself makes all the while completely disregarding the notion that she could just be telling the truth.

Yesterday, The Express Tribune published a piece in which Ms Khan courageously revealed that she suffered from domestic abuse in her first marriage, which was why she was so hesitant at first to tie the knot with Imran. She further went on to say that the reason she never talked about it was because she didn’t want unnecessary media attention nor to demean her former husband, Dr Ijaz Rehman, at the same time, who happens to be working as a psychiatrist in a very senior position in Britain.

As expected, her former husband denied the allegations, claiming that he has never hit anyone and has never been involved in any form of domestic abuse.

Fair enough.

Dr Rehman is entitled to stand up for himself. After all, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, right? Nevertheless, the thing that disturbed me the most was not his denial of the allegations, but rather the response from the readers – the general public, so to speak – where many not only blatantly stated that Ms Khan is ‘lying’ about being abused but that she made this story up in order to both seek and divert the public’s attention from the more important issues currently in Pakistan.

It’s often quite tragic when I come across such gratuitous comments against someone whose life we know absolutely nothing about, except what we have read, seen, or heard about them in the media. Ms Khan should never have felt the need to provide reasons as to why she decided to stay in the marriage, despite the abuse she may have endured, because we, as outsiders, will never truly understand it.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have never experienced domestic abuse personally will never understand why some women choose to stay and why some choose to leave a marriage. Even those who lived with such experiences know that leaving a relationship is never easy, especially when the abuser starts making “promises” that he will change or will never hurt you again.

Some women can’t help but feel hopeful that their abusers will actually change, turn a new leaf, and will never hurt them again. No doubt that blind hope is dangerous and self-destructive; yet, some women can’t help but fall into that cycle, making excuses after excuses for their abusive partner’s behaviour, until some finally find the strength and courage to leave.

Needless to say, not all women are fortunate enough to leave due to religious or cultural barriers, strong familial ties, lack of independence, lack of economic means, as well as the social stigmas associated with being a divorced woman. And Reham, despite being a strong, independent and empowered woman, who lived in the liberal west for the majority of her life, is no exception.

Domestic abuse is not limited to class or status, for it is rampant all over the world, and because it often happens behind closed doors, many of us never see or hear about it. But just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. We also need to realise that abuse is not limited to the physical, and that it can take numerous shapes and forms. The common misconception is that abuse isn’t abuse unless someone has been seriously hurt, or worse. Yet, any form of act that harms someone psychologically, emotionally, and physically is abuse.

Thus, it is truly unfair to judge Ms Khan for deciding to stay in the marriage, and that too for 15 years, when we know nothing about her personal life and the struggles that she, and so many other women like her, may have endured.

Reham may have her flaws, but if she has in fact been a victim of domestic abuse, then I hope that as the new first lady, she sincerely takes the initiative to work towards this problem, because as she said herself,

“Domestic violence is a big issue and no attention is paid to it in Pakistan. [It] happens in many shapes and forms.”

So, let’s stop making brash assumptions about someone just because we don’t like her. Domestic abuse is a very serious issue and it takes a lot of strength and courage for someone to come out and speak about it in a country where such issues are normally either dismissed or simply swept under the carpet.


Samar Esapzai

The author is a mommy, writer, visual artist and academic. Her areas of interest include gender relations, women's empowerment, maternal mental health, and anything and everything related to her people, the Pashtuns. She blogs at and tweets at @sesapzai (

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

  • Salma

    Oh my. Must you wash this kind of dirty linen? Just leave all these people alone.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Who came out first with this ‘ trash talk ‘…….. she or he ?
    Come to think of it….this is a waste of time.Recommend

  • Maqar

    Pakistani men are the most vicious masochists on this planet! In every household, there is someone who is abused, threatened, slapped or kicked on a daily basis. Stop putting your head in the sand–it won’t make the hyena pulling at your leg go away!Recommend

  • Truth

    Reham Khan on tv, “Mein actually Pakistan sey baahir peyda hui hoon” (giving off aura of superiority)….. umm where? Libya. lol

    “Hum ‘pathan’ apni 500 saal ki bloodline ko saaf or andar rakhte hein. ”

    insinuating anti-punjabi sentiments on social media too.

    Theres more, but khan has made a bad decision by marrying this woman, the incidents where the peshawar schoolchildrens parents protested against IK was just the start.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    As the new first lady? When did that happen? Or do you live in the same lala land where IK is the PM?Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    She said it, He said it. Whoever said whatever, they are not such public figures that their private life should be scrutinized. I get pretty sick when someone marries a famous guy and the media goes all out to dig into that person’s background. Why?Recommend

  • Sami

    I have seen this program as well and i was astonished what Reham was talking about. It was pretty racist to say the least. Talking about the Purity of some Race and bloodlines is utter rubbish and also Reham holds no bar while showing hatred to the Non Pushtoons in many of her programs and all People know it very very well.

    Anyway Reham and Imran Khan are a perfect match. If Reham is racist then so does Imran Khan. Our so called leader Imran Khan in the past used to make fun of Javed Miandad based on his color and even in one fundraising campaign he made fun of Babar Ghauri’s color and said that such people are found in Africa and that video is available on youtube.

    Anyway if you really want to the see the Real Racial Superiority then read the book of Imran Khan titled ” Warrior Race: A Journey through the land of tribal pathans ” and you will come to know that in which Mindset Mr Imran Khan Niazi infact lives and how much racial superiority he have compared to the rest of Pakistanis.Recommend

  • L.

    I live with my father, mother and 3 brothers. 4 of them, as expected, are men. All Pakistani. These things NEVER happen. Don’t know where you grew up dude, you can’t go around calling on all Pakistani men just cos some are like that. You are lucky alcohol doesn’t play a major role in Pakistan compared to other countries; intoxicated men, no matter what ethnicity, whatever faith, are animals. Recommend

  • humbled

    You are right. British law enforcement is so weak and blind that they failed to save just this one victim. Protest vigil.
    Thanks for making us understand that Ms. Reham was right, and British authorities and most of us were all wrong. This is a moment of clarity. If it were not for you, we would have been ignorant all along.Recommend

  • Rahul

    Having lived in India and the US, my experience is that the breakdown of a marriage is always messy. The former Husband and Wife become each others worst enemies. Accusations of abuse and adultary are pretty standard too. When I was growing up in India, women mysteriously burnt to death in kitchen fires were part of the landscape. Now the dial has turned the other way and half the women in Indian prisons are Saas accused by Bahu of abuse. Here in the US too, couples use every device including their children and police against each other. Kudos to Imran and his ex-Wife for dealing with each other in a civilized way.Recommend

  • Aziz Ihsan

    Her former husband is giving proof of her false claims against her. He is staying within the means to clarify his name. It was her who accused him of being a wife beater. If there were one or two images of past works in UK I would have believed her but there is way too much evidence against her for being ‘loose’ …and you Samar Esapzai are a femininazi.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Reham Khan is saint since she looks prettier than her husband.Recommend

  • Maz

    True. On the one hand trying to be cosmopolitan…and on the other hand being insular in maintaining her 500 year lineage, if lineage was so important dont go and live in Libya, taking the nice salary Libyans were paying and stay in Abottabad.Recommend

  • Express Garbage

    What a waste of a journalist…stop writing pointless stuffRecommend

  • Sabeet

    Honestly- Sarcasm ? I never was and never plan on becoming a PTI or IK fan when it comes to politics but please. I know you have full freedom of speech but trying to propagate against a person is not much of a great way to use it. Furthermore you Sir, are being totally paranoic- He did not insult Punjabis or sindhis as a matter of fact you do not live in his mind that you have the right to say what he thinks. When you gain some senses, I suggest then you start talking. Having named yourself TRUTH, don’t lie because assumptions are technically lies until proven true so- Change the name mate….to….LIEsRecommend

  • Sabeet

    Mam. Please ! I do understand that maybe your father, brother son or husband was one who betrayed you or worse abused you but that by no means is proof of fact that all Pakistani men are vicious. And no- not every wife is being kicked on daily basis- So please try not to stereotype!!!!! I hope you understand instead of getting infuriated. Chow and good bye !Recommend

  • Sabeet

    You sir are finally one with some mind and brain !Recommend

  • sterry

    She well may be a Pakhtun with a pure blood line but being born in Libya or any Arab country is considered less than being born in Pakhtunkhwa or anywhere in Pakistan for a real Pashtun. There are many Pashtu proverbs where the soil of one’s birth is considered sacred and for Pashtuns it would be the soil of KPK in Pakistan – not some North African run down country like Libya. Imran Khan may a mistake of marrying a woman who has too much baggage and has too high an opinion of herself. The fact that UK courts gave custody to the supposed wife beating husband tells you the real story. UK courts typically award kids to the mother but not in this case. Hmmm?Recommend

  • Naveed Sethi

    I agree, why the Hell is this Media and blogers after a news that has no end but will create hurdles in the life of others..Recommend

  • Naveed Sethi

    Leave them all alone, whether its you Ms Samar or our pathetic media or even the Express Tribune itself.Recommend

  • Ahmed Jokhio

    The bias in this article is clearly visible. Right from the first paragraph, the writer shows sympathy towards Reham merely because she is a woman. The shameful thing is that the bias is not even subtle.Recommend

  • Sajid

    I think the question is absurd. They both are the sinners. Simply because of children …

    It is unfair to talk about domestic violence while not mentioning about those (esp. women from upper middle class) who take full advantage under its cover. There is an evil side to this as well.Recommend

  • Sami

    You mentioned the word “She well may be a Pakhtun with a pure bloodline “.
    Could you elaborate certain traits of the afore mentioned Pukhtun Pure bloodline. ? Also what makes certain Bloodline as Impure?. Also you mentioned that soil for a Pushtun is sacred and then you mentioned KPK as the sacred soil?. So any Pushtun born and bred in Karachi and Punjab will never consider his place of birth as Sacred other than KP . Kindly elaborate.Recommend

  • Ticker

    how dare you call Libya run down. Libya accommodated hundreds of thousands of Pakistani expats like REHAMS “pure” family, who earnt very good salaries, and lived good lives, for decades prior to the civil war. Even before Gaddafi, King Idris sent aid to Pakistan, just because it was a newly formed muslim state. Look it up. Finally Libya even in its current state is lightyears ahead of the narco-state which the many of the “pure” ones like to align themselves too, rather than Pakistan.Recommend

  • Gulbadan

    are you joking? alcohol is more easily available in pakistan than underwearRecommend

  • Asad Khan

    Have to agree with Dr. Something wrong with Mrs

  • Hussain Ali

    This marriage issue already started hurting PTI followers. Who on earth advised Mrs Khan to lie and discuss Past ?Recommend

  • Faiza Khan

    Still remember Reham Khan interview with Morning with Farah. Where she boldly reject Pakistani men. Because she thought she was brought up in UK & she won’t adjust with Pakistani mentality men. No one believes Imran wife liesRecommend

  • Faiza Khan

    Agreed. They both Imran Rehman are sinner. None of their children were present at the time of Nikkah. And now Mrs Khan dragging ex without any reason. Recommend

  • Faraz

    So true. The writer is clearly biased and has an illogical thought processRecommend

  • sshafqat

    A CRB check in the UK is only for a criminal record — if domestic violence came up in the context of Family Court matters, a CRB check would still be clean. This does not mean that Dr Rehman was clear of domestic violence, only that he did not get tried in a criminal court. I do know people in Hull who were known to the couple and Dr Rehman is not accurate about what they would say. Regardless, those matters are in the past and let’s hope and pray that second marriages for both Reham and Imran are healthy and happy. IMHO, Imran Khan has lucked out rather than the other way round!Recommend

  • Grace

    Agreed that Imran Khan and PTI is suffering due to the lies and arrogance of his wife. He should have listened to his family and not married her. Just shows you that he won’t listen to anyone for advice or counsel – even if it’s for his own good. Imran Khan is too immature to lead the nation is all that is confirmed for me.
    This woman wears short dresses, cooks pork sausages, dances with european men and seems confused about birth. Maybe she picked up a lot of bad traits of Arabs living in Libya because she doesn’t have the decency of a pure Pashtana woman who are more dignified and proper.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    Have you seen my house? Have you seen my relatives house ?
    Have you seen with how much respect women are treated in our family ?
    Keep your ignorance to yourself.Recommend

  • AA

    Domestic abuse takes many forms it is not limited to physical violence. It includes very destructive psychological methods we can see in common Pakistani homes. It starts refusing to accept personal opinion as a legitimate right to absolute denial of freedom of speech, freedom of choice even freedom of movement. Continued demeaning and absurd allegations every now and then causes more hurt to human life than a physical injury since the latter is healed over time the former pushes a person into deeper and deeper in a cycle of depression and haplessness. Abusive language hurt more than a shove and rejection more than a push. We really don’t know if she was actually pointing to physical abuse. But by domestic abuse uneducated people could only think of physical violence while verbal and psychological abuse goes on even in many educated homes.Recommend

  • Real Truth

    Agree with you 100%! The writer has every right to have a soft corner for Ms. Reham Khan, but her not-so-subtle male-bashing mindset is quite conspicuous throughout the article!Recommend

  • stevenson

    You obviously haven’t been to India which is rape capital of the world. Ever heard of Sati? It took the British to come and stop Indians from burning their own wives.Recommend

  • Chitralwala

    Don’t know about the social media and TV interview allegations.
    But hope she has a family tree going back 500 years. And how can
    she guarantee that some illiterate bandit Pathan ancestor did not
    produce an offspring from a kidnapped Jat Hindu maid? Also if
    there is no new genetic infusions, a particular ethnic group can start
    producing mentally challenged babies. Or ones with severe physical

  • Aaliya

    The writer needs to stop being so obviously biased herself before accusing readers of the same flaw that she so blatantly displays in every word of this write-up. While we are all sick of all the unnecessary drama surrounding the newly wedded couple, one has to wonder why Reham Khan suddenly felt the need to come out in public with all these facts? Why now? What was the point? What was she trying to achieve? Did she honestly believe that there wouldn’t be a backlash? Did she really think people would just nod at her version of the story, accept it and life would be bliss for the happy couple again? Of course she didn’t.. As someone with reasonable intelligence, she knew what she was coming her way. She knew there would be talk of “his version vs. her version and the real version, so why blame people for doing what people always do? While I’m no one to judge who’s the real victim is here, I do think her ‘timing’ for such a huge revelation couldn’t have been worse considering all that’s going on in the country. So just for that, she needs to stop playing the wounded victim, toughen up and face the flames that she herself fanned. Eventually, people will find something else to talk about, but until then Ms Khan needs to realise that every action will have an equal and opposite reaction. That’s just how life works.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “You obviously haven’t been to India which is rape capital of the world.”

    Seems you have been to India

    “It took the British to come and stop Indians from burning their own wives.”

    Really, if the man was already dead, how did he ask his wife to burn along with him.Recommend

  • AA

    So I see your only objection on IK is being “immature to lead the nation” and telling us that you rather elect mature thieves like Nawaz and Zardari and let them plunder the national wealth unabated??? You really deserve the two leaders.Recommend