Pakistan is a cesspool of humanitarian crises, but who cares? Imran and Reham just got divorced!

Published: October 30, 2015
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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked his party members to refrain from commenting about Reham and Imran’s split. PHOTO: AFP

Imran Khan is in the news again. He has definitely got the knack for it. Even those who are staunchly against him, people like me who are not Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) supporters in any way, turn around to listen when he’s going on and on about something. Whether it’s about “teen halqe” or even his madcap rants atop the container, the man can pull crowds.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that my generation, those of us who were all young and starry-eyed when he lifted the 1992 cricket World Cup, grew up with the idea of him being an idol, a man with charisma, someone who was a national hero.

Pakistani politics does strange things to people. Friendships are lost and feuds are ignited. Shots are fired and verbal warfare is not where, unfortunately, this ends. Guns and the violence become the highest form of political strife.

There is, however, one more way to hurt your opponent: attack his or her personal life.

A few short months ago, Imran Khan was in the news for his marriage to Reham Khan. Journalists and social media went berserk. The PTI head honcho, fresh from bidding the dharna goodbye, had tied the knot with television anchor Reham Khan. Reham, beautiful and clearly well-spoken, and Imran celebrated their wedding in a small, intimate gathering at Imran’s Bani Gala residence. Every PTI opponent devoured this news with relish. Some people, even within PTI, began to hate Reham Khan. Perhaps they were expecting Imran Khan to remain a bachelor all his life? I don’t know what could have possibly been the end game on that logic.

But one thing was most common: misogyny.

It was uniformly demonstrated across all parties. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), even the factions within PTI that hated Reham, never bothered to hide their blatant misogyny.

There came a point when it almost became mathematical. If you want to check the calibre of a person’s mental acumen and character, see how s/he feels about a woman in the public eye. Reham Khan was slut-shamed for her clothes and mocked for her weather-reporting days at BBC. Pictures of her dancing, wearing western clothing were splattered all over the profiles and pages of PTI dissidents and anti-Reham factions.

Then there were those who refused to acknowledge Reham’s legitimacy as her own person. Granted she came into limelight the most as Imran Khan’s wife, but her own personality seemed to hold no value at all.

The slander campaigns were not the end of the sad misogynistic trend that became a part of the celebrity marriage. Reham’s ex-husband featured more than once or twice in newspapers here or there, saying that her claims of abuse and lack of financial support were false.

Then there was the degree fiasco. The media gorged on Reham and she could do little to placate the hungry monsters.

Reham became an ambassador for street children, she tried to campaign for PTI in the Haripur elections (which PTI lost) and was subsequently told to refrain from taking part in politics. From her programs, her addresses to the audiences, it seemed Reham was an eloquent speaker, an intelligent conversationalist.

She could have been a powerful asset for the PTI which lacked any charisma except for the little that an ageing Khan offered. While Jahangir Tareen and Shah Mahmood Qureshi were strong forerunners, Reham could have easily raced past them in her public support. There was a clear lack of female leaders and with a gradual progressive middle-class in Pakistan, PTI could have easily tapped a vote bank that all other parties lacked.

PML-N still keeps Maryam Nawaz in the shadows, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari are behind Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and no other main party could have hoped for a female leader.

Reham could have been a contender. Boy, would that have been something worth watching!

Arif Nizami, the journalist who claimed to know about Imran and Reham’s marriage before it was announced, “broke” the news of their divorce as well. The man seemingly had a source deep within the personal and private affairs in Bani Gala. Many media persons defended Nizami’s (and other broadcasts of Khan’s personal life) as kosher.

Nizami, regarding the divorce, went on to claim that the divorce was due to Imran Khan’s sisters’ discontent with the marriage. He also stated that Imran was a good man and was ‘ensnared’ by Reham’s ploys.

“She had made his life miserable!”

Then there were these gems:

It is a moment of shame, for even the educated, when literate PTI supporters, and non-supporters alike, consider Imran to be absolved of all responsibility of making the marriage work – and place the blame squarely on Reham’s shoulders.

(And he continued defending said position,)

Some of the PTI spokespeople have not helped the matter. Instead of understanding the real problem behind discussing family matters in the blatant, one-sided way that they are, the problem somehow has become about marriages and the number of marriages:

But, to be honest, our esteemed journalists have been the ones who have set the worst example. They proudly discussed family relationships between Imran-Reham-Reham’s Ex-Imran’s Sisters’. They left all of Pakistan’s issues on the back burner for the day.

Journalists and media personnel are justifying their deplorable actions by saying,

“Well, if he didn’t want us to comment, why did he tell us about the marriage?”

I think we are all at that jaded point in our lives as Pakistanis, where lack of media ethics does not surprise us anymore, but just for the heck of it, this is what journalistic ethics regarding private lives are about:

“Information on the private life of a person may be published only if the behaviour of this person in the private sphere affects the public interest. In such cases it is necessary to make sure that such publication will not violate the interests of the third parties.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked his party members to refrain from commenting about Reham and Imran’s split. But for how long will this silence stay? Sooner or later, some member of some party, PML-N or other, is going to come out guns blazing with the kind of logic that they had about his marriage with Jemima Khan,

“You couldn’t save your marriage, how could you save this country?”

The problem is not about Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issuing an order or the prime minister asking his party members to stay mum.

The problem is greater than issuing an order and that problem is misogyny. This slanted view that women are to be blamed for relationships not working out, that relationships are up for public scrutiny and every person has somehow the moral right or duty to comment on what transpired between two individuals in their homes.

How is Reham and Imran’s divorce relevant to the effected victims of the earthquake? How is the family feud and Reham’s relationship with Imran’s friends important to the fact that Pakistan is facing a war? That Pakistanis have extra-judicial killings, poverty, sectarian hatred and crimes against women that are committed without abandon?

If there was one word for it all, it would perhaps be ‘masala’. We are a soap opera addicted nation and Reham Khan has been a spicy distraction from the banality of real life.

While we sit and watch, like an accident in slow-motion, ‘experts’ on television tear someone’s personal life apart, analyse what can only be a traumatic time for families – we forget that Pakistan is no suburbia but a cesspool of various humanitarian crises that need attention and genuine discourse.

But who cares, right? Let’s find out what yet another anchor has to say about Reham Khan’s clothes, her hair, her children, her children’s clothes, her ex-husband, her behaviour…

Oh, she must have done something to make Imran Khan unhappy!

Oh, she must have brought this on!

Yes. This comforts us.

To our society, our media, our journalists, even our friends and families who have long subscribed to patriarchy and the lop-sided mansplaining it proffers – this makes perfect sense.

Mahwash.Badar.

Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

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

  • Waleed

    You should have written a long informative blog on earthquake victims and future precautions rather than this long piece on people’s reactions to the divorce. You’re part of the same crowd which you are criticising.Recommend

  • Salman Shareef

    From very first day I was saying that this woman is opportunist and she wanted to enter politics by using the forum of PTI through IK.Recommend

  • Ali S

    Such a long rant over something the author considers inconsequential. Irony defined. Stop worrying lady it’s not like Imran Khan will be chasing you now.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nothing titillates the minds of people like a good juicy divorce story…….and the more prominent the couple the greater the nose level. BUT tomorrow it will be yesterdays story and on Sunday Zardari may say he’s bringing all his wealth back to Pakistan……and the divorce will be forgotten.Recommend

  • MEHSUD

    Again we people made IK life hellRecommend

  • Shah Muhammad

    “ageing Khan.” Someone who rightly pointed out problems of misogyny nonetheless perpetrates age discrimination. Since when is 63 ageing? And IK is MashaAllah fitter than most 30 year olds.Recommend

  • Queen

    Media can show anything just for the sake of ratings…..even if it is distressingly inadequate.Recommend

  • Saira Khan

    Thank God for sane voices in the midst of confusedistanis.Recommend

  • Brutus

    Pakistan is a strange country, I am calling it a strange and unique country, because of many reasons and one of the reasons is the immense popularity of Imran Khan, a man who not only looks like a bit less than ordinary, but also proved, time and again, as a downright fool. I ask his die hard followers a question, what were his achievements? Yes, he won the world cup for Pakistan, but, so did others for their countries. In fact, some of them won championships multiple times. Philanthropy? Yes, but, that too is not unique, the same could be credited to the dozens of other great sports-persons around the world. Then what is so unique about Imran Khan? Just nothing, other than the fact that, he was born in a country where success is scarce and people are starved of heroes, and he encashed it to the hilt.
    Ok, many would say one must judge him as a politician and not as a sportsperson of the past and they’re right, but, what’s his political ideology? Mr.Imran Khan, all his life (to be precise 62yrs. may be), lived a life of a play boy and yet he supports Islamic fundamentalism, so much so that he was branded as “Taliban Khan”, perhaps rightly so. And he’s not a democrat either. He was hell bent upon discrediting his own country’s democratic institutions, never bothering to give them a breathing space to strengthen themselves. Imran Khan’s immaturity, even at this late stage of his life, is astounding. Marrying and divorcing a woman within 10 months is just mindboggling for any sane & normal person and weird enough to leave a person aghast, particularly when he claims to be on a mission to change the destiny of Pakistan. I can understand teenagers falling in love at the spur of the moment and deciding to marry each other and regretting it later, but what makes Mr.Khan (an old man, if you excuse me for calling him so) so frivolous? If he’s so frivolous, then he’s no business to preside over the destiny of a nation. And, don’t tell me that it’s his personal affair, those who aspire to eradicate corruption and maladies of the society must also be ready to stand public scrutiny of their own characteristics.
    Anyway, in the end I would say; had I been a Pakistani, I would have certainly voted for a corrupt, but, astute politician like Nawaz Sharif or Asif Zardari, rather than voting for a “clean’ but, immature Imran Khan. Simply because, as a wizard famously said, “a wise enemy is always much better, safer & preferable than a loyal, but stupid friend”!Recommend

  • Humza

    A political leader and his wife file for divorce which should be a personal matter but when someone is in the public eye and chooses to become a public figure all bets are off. This is the reality all over the world, including Western countries. Look up how the French public and media had a field day over President Sarkozy’s break up with Carla Bruni. The French are known to tolerate almost any marital indiscretion by their leaders or relationship between the sexes but tongues were wagging over Sarkozy’s and Bruni’s break up. You have only given passing credit to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who advised his party members not to judge or make comments on the recent divorce of a rival politician. However the public and other politicians can rightfully question the judgement shown by Imran Khan who married shortly after the APS massacre following a short affair and ostensibly had differences with his wife over the latter’s role in politics. These are all relevant questions that an aspiring PM must answer for the public. What I can never understand is how you never miss a chance to pass negative judgement on Pakistani society as a whole when you call the nation a “cesspool of humanitarian disasters”. Do you really have no understanding of the gravity of humanitarian disasters in South Sudan, Yemen, Iraq or Syria? The Pakistani nation in contrast is handling its current tragedy of the earthquake. I wasn’t surprised to see you turn an article on divorce into a diatribe against Pakistan and Pakistani society. I had hoped for better.Recommend

  • Aziz Ihsan

    hogwash!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Really ?……suggest a calm rethink would be in order.Recommend

  • Sadat

    Agree with you 100% but sorry Imran is not clean brand he is corrupting in his cancer hospital. He tried to deal with dictator once in 2002 for becoming PM. Just like people calling Reham khan opportunist they don’t know imran khan himself is opportunist. When two people are alike they are usually broken up .Recommend

  • mjkhan

    Your article is one-sided and completely based on feminism. NO ONE knows what happened in their marriage, so we can all only ASSUME. it could be her fault, it could be his fault or both of them at fault. Both of them had their shortcomings, neither of them is a picture of perfection. They’re human, not GODS. You talk as if you were a witness and if you weren’t, save your breath.Recommend

  • mjkhan

    Your article is one-sided and completely based on feminism. NO ONE knows what happened in their marriage, so we can all only ASSUME. it could be her fault, it could be his fault or both of them at fault. Both of them had their shortcomings, neither of them is a picture of perfection. They’re human, not GODS. You talk as if you were a witness and if you weren’t, save your breath.Recommend

  • NBM

    Misogyny – you can see it in the comments here and in the tweets!Recommend

  • sohail

    You are complaining about the people, u belong to same rot. You could hv chosen better topic to discuss.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    that pic is Photoshoped my dear!Recommend

  • Grace

    She wrote earlier in an article that Jinnah made a mistake and her family made a mistake moving to Pakistan from India. So why do you even care about IKs divorce at all? Why not criticize divorce in India.Recommend