‘Imran appears very meek and almost unhappy’

‘Imran and his government have obviously agreed to be subservient to the military establishment.’
‘How can we expect him to take a stand on anything?’

Reham Khan, the autobiography of British-Pakistani broadcast journalist Reham Khan has made more news for its controversial revelations about former husband and present Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan than about Reham Khan’s own journey after walking out of an abusive first marriage with three children and no job.

The initial questions sent to Reham Khan for this interview were returned because it was felt that they were mostly about Imran Khan. Some additional questions were asked for.

Yet when Reham finally replied, she did not evade any Imran-related question. A journalist herself, she does understand that every question deserves an answer.

Libya-born Khan, who was married at 19, worked with the BBC in England and returned to Pakistan in 2013 continuing with television journalism. It was in the course of her broadcast work that she first met Imran Khan.

The couple wed in January 2015, eight months later, they were divorced.

The book has been in the eye of the storm for the accusations of sex, drugs, illegitimate children and corruption. Her critics say the book aims to malign Imran Khan. Cricket legend Wasim Akram sent Reham a legal notice. No publisher wants to risk helping with the book in Pakistan, says Reham.

In an e-mail interview from England, she tells Rediff.com‘s Archana Masih that since Imran Khan’s swearing-in, as the days go by, his every blunder is proving that every word in her book is a hundred percent true.

Part 1 of a two-part interview.

How has life changed for you after the release of your book? Do you plan to return to Pakistan?

The only change is that I have to be away from Pakistan at the minute and it is a serious disruption to my social causes as well as difficult for me as I miss Pakistan desperately.

I only came away because it was clear that they would stoop to any level to stop the book from coming out. No publisher wanted to risk helping with the book and even printers refused as they feared their personal safety.

A fascist individual and regime thrives on this perception of fear they build up.

Everyone knew in Pakistan that the military establishment was going to bring in Imran as PM and people did not want to risk the wrath of this powerful lobby.

I am in love with Pakistan. How can I be kept away?

You were recently heckled in a London park when you were with your son, you maintained your calm through it — how much do negative responses like this incident affect you, and your children?

It doesn’t affect me or my daughters as much. Sahir is naturally the eldest and his cultural values of protecting women kicks in at times. It can make him angry sometimes, but generally we laugh off their stupidity.

We know that these are isolated incidents by people entrusted with this task of stalking me. The vast majority of Pakistanis both home and overseas are very loving and respectful.

What is the worst thing — anyone has said/done — to you because of the book? And what are the positives that have emerged because of the book?

Again the paid propaganda lobbyists and party position holders say awful things, but it is predictable now. They are on direct instruction from Imran, use swear words and resort to character assassination on social and national media.

The accusations are so bizarre that it is almost funny so it is all awful, but honestly (it) doesn’t bother me one bit.

What used to affect me soon after the divorce was that a man I loved had gone out of the way to spread lies about me to save his public image. That hurt for a bit.

He told his mouthpieces to say that I was trying to kill him by arsenic poisoning.

For a woman who lovingly gets up in the middle of the night to make food for her husband to be maligned by the same man by saying this was naturally shocking but I got over it.

My feedback has been largely extremely positive and supportive from people who have actually read the book. I have melted some hard cynics, it seems.

My friend was seeing an ophthalmologist the other day and when she told him her ethnicity he started telling her how he was surprised at the courage of a Pakistani woman called Reham Khan.

I am frequently given such encouraging messages from random strangers.

Now that Imran Khan is prime minister, do you feel that in spite of the scandalous revelations about him in your book, the people of Pakistan did not care or believe these personal scandals, putting their hope instead in Imran for a ‘Naya Pakistan’.
That in the people’s court, he is the winner?

The people have not elected him or selected him. He was chosen by the military establishment and he got here by rigging the system. We all know this. Not only the journalists or politicians, but the public too.

The book is more of a ‘I told you so’ about different issues I have encountered.

Imran is also a major issue now that he is in the PM’s seat.

As the days go by his every blunder is proving that every word in my book is a hundred percent true.

He has made some populist proclamations in his victory speech — he said he will not stay in the official PM’s home and opted for a simple oath ceremony — this is a welcome change, isn’t it? Will it especially resonate with the youth?

These optics can only fool a few. His attempt at a cosmetic camouflage of a feeble government is the butt of jokes and memes.

From official pictures it is clear that he is in the official residence.

The oath taking was bog standard fare and Pakistan’s problems cannot be fixed by serving tea and biscuits.

His daily trips back and forth to his own home in a helicopter is another example of fake rhetoric.

The party people are following in the footsteps of the leader and as political upstarts they are blatantly misusing and abusing power and VVIP protocol.

Bureaucrats, police officers and the general public are being insulted on a daily basis.

He and his government have obviously agreed to be subservient to the military establishment and we saw evidence of their friendship in the recently hyped unusually long eight hour meeting.

People like me who can read his body language are noticing that he appears to be very meek and almost unhappy looking. The cult is brainwashed and so his tactics may work on them but not for very long.

You see our biggest challenge in Pakistan is the fact that 64 percent of our population is under 30 and are largely jobless. Imran had made ridiculous claims in his election campaign of providing 10 m jobs etc.

In his first speech after taking the oath there was no plan given for job creation or an economic recovery.

There was no mention of tackling extremism or terrorism either.

In the first week in office two major lies came to the forefront; one in regards to the offer of talks by India and the other was the diplomatic faux pas with the US.

This demonstrates a party and leader that has no clue about the basics of running a government.

I, of course, have inside info about how Imran had no interest in poverty alleviation or tackling the rights of the minorities and curbing extremism when he got power in one province in the last five years.

The lack of performance in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is well documented and visible.

His position on the Taliban and the use of religion for vote bank appeasement has already resulted in the US cancelling aid to Pakistan.

The record on militants is pushing Pakistan into isolation and it is all because no democratic leader is allowed to stay put in Pakistan.

Imran got to this chair just like (Muhammad Khan) Junejo and (Mir Zafarullah Khan) Jamali before him did.

How can we expect him to take a stand on anything?

  • Part 2 of the interview: ‘Imran is a puppet of the Pakistani military’

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