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Friday Jun 08 2018

The book no one has read

What is the title of the book? When will it be published, and by whom?

No one seems to have answers to these questions, except Reham Khan, the author and ex-wife of one of Pakistan’s most popular politicians and sportsman. And what is in the book? Are the purportedly “leaked” manuscripts authentic? Again, no one knows. But we do know that the author intends to have her work on bookshelves well before the July 25 election.

Despite the unknowns, the discussion continues in political circles and news talk shows.

This whole affair reminds me of the famous Imran series by the late Ibn-e-Safi, an Urdu poet and writer. I can’t recall any another book being discussed in such detail, even before it launches.

Is it not intellectual dishonesty to discuss a piece of work without knowing anything about it?

Then there are denials, and lots of them, further churning the rumour mill. So, how did it all begin? Who fired the first shot of oblivion? There were already reports of Reham Khan moving to London to pen a book about her former husband, Imran Khan. Then on June 1, Hamza Ali Abbasi, an actor associated with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, tweeted that he had read the manuscript of the book. Thereon began a back and forth between the author and the actor sending social media in a tailspin. Soon, leaders from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and its rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also chimed in on the controversy. How many of the men and women speaking up had actually read the book, I can’t say.

In a recent interview, Khan dropped another bombshell. She said her book contained something about a BlackBerry exchange. Her opponents and critics termed her disclosure as “blackmailing.” Interestingly, a few months prior to this, a disgruntled leader, Ayesha Gulalai, of the PTI, had levelled some serious allegations against Imran Khan which focused on his BlackBerry.

Till now, Imran Khan has remained silent and away from the imbroglio. One would have also expected him to stop his friends and party colleagues from unleashing a burst of spleen and anger on social and electronic media.

Granted that scandals sell, especially about well-known personalities. But here the book’s reviews are out before the preview. And at this point, we don’t even know if the book will indeed see the light of day.

Abbasi, the man who started it all, promised to tender an unconditional apology if the book does not contain what he alleges. One thing is certain that if the book is published before the election and the PTI wins and forms the government, expect it to be banned in Pakistan, which will again help the author’s publicity.

For now, Reham Khan has nothing to lose. She is already the centre of most discussions on Imran Khan these days. Interestingly, all those people, who we are told are mentioned in the book, have sent Khan legal notices, which she has yet to acknowledge. But an author cannot be tried for libel on an unpublished book.

That said, none of this absolves Reham Khan of the charge to damage her ex-husband’s career. The timings and intention of publishing her work near the election raise many eyebrows. Khan was a weather reporter for an international broadcaster who returned to Pakistan to pursue journalism. It was after she interviewed Imran Khan that rumours began circulating that he would marry her. Even at the time of the nuptial, many of his close friends feared that the marriage would not last. Three months later, news began seeping out of the Bani Gala that the couple had many differences. According to sources close to Khan, he did not like her involvement in political matters.

Imran Khan, a former cricket sensation, has steered the PTI from a fringe party to a mainstream one. He is expected to perform well, if not form the government, in the upcoming polls. If his ex-wife’s book is published in the coming days, it will certainly become a bestseller but it is unlikely to affect his political standing or to sway voters.

Also, it would not be fair to judge Khan’s political career on the basis of his personal life. Jemima Goldsmith, his first wife, still respects and stands by him even though they parted ways over 14 years ago.

Abbas is a senior columnist and analyst for Geo News, The News and Jang. He tweets @MazharAbbasGEO

Note: The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geo News or the Jang Group. 

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