A section of the press, inimical to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, has launched a smear campaign against him at the behest of the Sharif family over his third marriage. It reported he had caused a split between his spiritual guide and her husband to pave the way for his marriage with her. His morality was also questioned for “eying” his spiritual leader during his visits to her residence. It appears a media campaign has been launched to malign the PTI chief ahead of polls after he was cleared of all court cases.
The saddest part of the campaign was that a woman, believed to be about 50, with grown up children, was also targeted unfairly. According to media reports, Imran Khan had secretly married Bushra Maneka he used to visit for spiritual guidance in Lahore on the night of January 1. It is said she has guided him throughout his court trials and he was cleared of terrorism cases by an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on the first day of his marriage. “The marriage was solemnised by Mufti Saeed, a member of the PTI core committee, who also the nikah khawan when Imran had married Reham Khan on January 8, 2015, amid reports of secret marriage in November 2014,” it added.
However, Imran Khan broke his silence about his possible third marriage after more speculation started and it was said even his sisters were not aware of it and they were annoyed at him for not inviting them to the marriage. It is said the news had also shocked his sisters, who complained they were kept in the dark once again after he had had not taken them into confidence tying the knot with journalist Reham Khan in 2015, a marriage which ended in just 10 months. It is said they had reached his Bani Gala residence to confirm his marriage report after which Imran felt the need to clarify the issue.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Imran Khan said he had only proposed to her through a common friend after her divorce and she sought time to consult her family, especially her children, before making any decision. The statement insisted that the PTI chief would announce it publicly if she accepted his proposal. It said an extremely private and sensitive matter was made the subject of an erroneous story leading to all manner of public conjecture. “It has put an unacceptable burden, especially on the children of Maneka and Khan, who have had to learn of such a private and intimate issue from the media,” the statement said. Stressing the need for caution, he urged the media to “respect the privacy of the two families, especially the children”.
It is said Imran Khan had first met with Bushra Maneka aka Pinki, a mother of five, shortly before the 2015 by-election in Lodhran for the NA-154 seat. She is around 50 and belongs to an influential Wattoo family in Punjab’s Pakpattan district. She has recently been divorced by her husband Khawar Farid Maneka, a Customs officer and son of former Federal Minister Ghulam Farid Maneka. Bushra’s two sons – Ibrahim and Musa – are getting higher education abroad after graduating from Aitchison College in Lahore. Her eldest of three daughters is the daughter-in-law of Punjab MPA Mian Atta Muhammad Maneka. It is said she had asked Imran to marry for a third time to brighten his chances of success in the next election and he proposed her when she was divorced by her husband last year. He also wears a ring given by her for luck and to keep out of harm’s way.
The malicious campaign about her split forced her former husband Khawar Fareed Maneka to defend her. In a video statement on social media, he deplored the manner in which a media outlet had reported the issue. “Whatever a specific media outlet has been reporting, it is a matter of grave concern for me. It is misleading and baseless and caused distress to my whole family. I categorically deny the claim that some dispute had emerged between me and my ex-wife, which led to our divorce, due to Imran Khan. My former wife is the most pious woman in the world. Imran Khan values our spiritual family. I have not seen such a great person. May God help him,” he said.
Marriage is a private issue but personal matters of public figures are discussed in the media all over the world. However, Imran’s wedding was blown out of proportion. News channels accused him of undermining his own movement. Some experts castigated him for tying the knot ahead of polls. Last year, rumour of his marriage remained the topic of discussion on all channels for many weeks despite denials by Imran Khan and other party leaders. The media speculated about two women who belonged to Pakpattan. When channels continued flashing pictures of the women, Imran slammed media outlets for spreading news about his third marriage and sharing pictures of women he “had never met”. “Women’s pictures shown whom I neither know nor ever met. Such disinformation is irresponsible and shows a collapse of moral and ethical standards,” Imran Khan said on Twitter. “Unethical of media to spread false news of my marriage based upon absolute lies. Had that happened in the UK heads would have rolled,” he added.
Imran’s first two marriages and splits were flashed by the media all over the world. However, the foreign media has always been careful and responsible about its reporting. The Pakistani media has crossed all limits of decency and respect for public privacy. It is said Imran Khan will be the main target of the ruling party in its election campaign. He has humiliated the Sharifs in the Panama case. They have invested heavily in at least three women. They include his former wife Reham Khan, who can come up with a malicious book or film against him. Estranged PTI MNA Ayesha Gulalai and other women could also be used to malign him ahead of polls. However, his popularity has increased to a level where no allegation can harm him and devalue him before his supporters. His marriage will shield him from the allegations.