After having his reputation dragged around by TV channels discussing his third marriage to a “spiritual” lady of Pakpattan in Punjab, Imran Khan, leader of the second-largest political party in Pakistan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, opened up on Dunya TV on January 11 about the new woman about to walk into his life. The uproar was caused by his past conduct: He had divorced two times earlier and was accused by his party member, Ayesha Gulalai Wazir, of sending her improper messages.
Khan’s first wife Jemima was a great personality who stayed with him for long. But she was forced to leave him perhaps because of his inattention. Her goodness of heart is measured today by her loyalty to him. His second marriage to Reham Khan was a disaster. An extremely attractive, religiously-inclined and talented person, just like Jemima, Reham Khan still can’t figure out why the Tehreek-e-Insaf leader ended the relationship so summarily.
Khan said the woman he had proposed to this time was a spiritual person named Bushra Maneka — nee Wattoo — whom he had not seen because, during his five visits to her, she had remained veiled as ordained by Islam. She is the mother of five children, one of whom came on TV to tearfully deny that a “devotee”, Imran, had actually married or was going to marry his saintly mother. Her husband didn’t say why he had divorced her but vouched for her purity and her total absorption in spirituality.
Khan too talked about Bushra’s spiritual nexus with God and compared her to the great mystic Ibn Arabi, whom he reveres among other saints like Data Sahib of Lahore and Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi. He was convinced that she was a saint of a higher order than any other he had known. He accepted that he had proposed to her in Lahore, where she had shifted after her divorce. There is no doubt that he had figured out the spiritual depth of the mystic during his five visits to Pakpattan, which is home to the mausoleum of the greatest saint of Punjab, Baba Farid, whose immortal verse is sung in festivals and whose works are found in the holy book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib.
Khan also talked about his journey to spirituality in a life of sports and good work. He talked of his salad days, when he thoughtlessly developed the reputation of a playboy from which he was rescued by his saintly mother whose passing had actually inspired him to build a cancer hospital in Lahore. Clearly, this is an important crossroads in his spiritual journey, during which he has also grown in stature as a political leader without the common Pakistani blemish of corruption. He believes in predestination and clearly looks for spiritual signposts as he moves to victory in the 2018 elections against Nawaz Sharif and his party, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
Khan’s “divine” journey, from an unfairly maligned “playboy” bachelorhood, to a God-inspired “servant of the poor” phase, is revealed in his autobiography, Pakistan: A Personal History. He talks about a strong sense of personal destiny and recalls from childhood: “Pirji (soothsayer) from Sahiwal said I would be very famous and make my mother a household name.” Imran had announced his first retirement from cricket when he met another clairvoyant: “Baba Chala lived in a little village just a few miles from the Indian border. He certainly had not heard about my retirement . . . the man looked at me and said I had not left my profession . . . It is the will of Allah; you are still in the game.”
During his January 11 interview with Dunya TV, he recalled his first spiritual mentor. The man who stood by him was Mian Bashir (d. 2005) who shocked Khan by naming the Quranic ayat (verse) his mother used to read to him. Bashir predicted that Allah would turned the tables in his favour in the Lamb-Botham libel suit, whose reparations would have pauperised Khan. Bashir also disarmed a sceptical Jemima by accurately guessing her three secret wishes.
On September 1, 2014, however, his second spiritual guide and clairvoyant, Ahmad Rafeeq Akhtar, came on TV from his home in Gujjar Khan in Punjab to denounce his disciple saying he had become misguided and was following a conspiracy hatched by “hidden powers”. Fellow-disciple and well-known columnist, Haroon Rasheed, had already parted ways with Khan predicting doom for him in his columns and on TV. Though there were accusations of
misdirection by the “guide”, it is not clear why Rasheed’s Gujjar Khan connection was severed.
Agitating against the Nawaz Sharif government in 2014, Khan predicted, “On Saturday the finger of the umpire will be raised” ordering the Sharif government to quit the field. A Dawn editorial on August 21, 2014, echoed: “Without a doubt, the army leadership has grabbed with both hands the opportunity that the political leadership has created for it — perhaps even steered events from behind the scenes to the present impasse.”