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Brought to book: Jemima Khan on appearing in her ex-husband’s memoir
Jemima Khan

“Too late. Don’t worry Jem - you come across as you always wanted to - Joan of Arc,” was the response I got from my ex-husband, Imran Khan, when I asked if it would be possible to read his memoirs before they were published.

Imran and I have remained on very good terms. He even uses my mother’s house as a London base when he’s in the UK. Still, hearing that there was a chapter in Pakistan: A Personal History entitled “My Marriage”, was, I’ll admit, unsettling. I wrestled an advance copy, a brick of a book, from my sons (to whom it had been dedicated, as well as to “the youth of Pakistan”).

Imran is featured on the front, looking moodily into the middle distance with backcombed, boy-band hair. (And before any Pakistanis get their shalwars in a twist about my irreverence, Imran has an excellent sense of humour and enjoys a tease, by me or a comb). It is hard to over-estimate the importance of hair in Pakistan, a symbol of tantalising female sexuality, referred to in the Koran as an adornment that must be covered, and of male virility and power. An American-Pakistani hair transplant specialist recently moved his practice to Islamabad and after the summer recess, the entire National Assembly re-appeared with follicular explosions on their heads.

I’m agog for the new Lollywood (Lahore’s Bollywood) blockbuster, Kaptaan, about Imran’s life and his marriage, to be released later this year, in which I am played by a Pakistani actress with a suitably big, blonde bouffant.

Fortunately, the ‘My Marriage’ chapter only contains a couple of pages on that subject, starting with our Mills & Boon-style first encounter. “I was particularly impressed by her strong value system” and ending sadly. Typically Imran doesn’t dwell on this failure. The rest of the chapter, like the rest of the book and Imran’s life, is consumed by Pakistan and politics. At times, it reads like a manifesto, which in a way it is.

Imran will be fighting elections next year. After 15 years in opposition and with a more robust and independent media and judiciary, for the first time I predict success. More importantly though, so do the most recent polls, with both YouGov and Pew declaring him Pakistan’s most popular candidate to lead Pakistan after the next elections.

I agreed to interview him for the Independent’s Woodstock Literary Festival. Since I live up the road and he’s been busy on his book tour, it seemed like a good chance to catch up with him, talk to him about the book in which I appear, and confront him about his comment last week to The Sunday Times’ Camilla Long that “honeymoons are overrated”.

His party announced the event on Twitter: “Jemima Khan In conversion (sic) with Imran Khan.” Been there, done that.

We conversed at Woodstock. Imran talked convincingly about Islam and its compatibility with democracy and also of the corruption of the ruling elite, the breakdown of the rule of law, of women’s rights, the Taliban and even of cricket. The audience, judging by comments overheard afterwards, was duly converted.

Of India, he smiled: “Since we can’t change our neighbours, we will have to live with them in a civilised way.”

On accusations of being too soft on the Taliban, he gesticulated crossly: “Anyone who opposes the war on terror is called a Taliban sympathiser. The reason I wrote this book was to explain what the Taliban is in Pakistan. It is a war of resistance, not religious ideology.”

It is feudalism and hereditary politics, with parties like the PPP being handed down from father to son like heirlooms, which are the scourge of Pakistani politics, he boomed, in that way that used to startle small children. I made him promise that our oldest son would never be bequeathed PTI, his political party. — The Independent





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