Leave Jemima Khan alone

She divorced Imran Khan almost 18 years ago. Why is she still being dragged into the depth of Pakistani political mudslinging?
19 Apr, 2022

We're sure you must have heard the line "you marry a man and you marry his whole family", but it seems for some people, such as Jemima Khan, the more accurate version is "you marry a man and you marry his whole country". Though she and former premier Imran Khan were married for only nine odd years, Jemima has never been able to escape Pakistan and Pakistanis and the latest evidence of this is the protest outside her home by a group of PML-N supporters.

Jemima was married to the cricketer-turned-politician from 1995 to 2004. She has been divorced for far longer than she was married but that means nothing to Pakistanis who consider her one of their many bhabis. Almost 18 years after their divorce, she is still plagued with questions and comments about Imran Khan. She's understandably sick of it, but that means nothing to those who continue to shower her with unwanted comments and attention.

Although tweets asking if she still loves Imran Khan are a far cry from a mob of angry men gathering outside her house and threatening to enter her bedroom and we need to make that clear. Jemima, who has a rather cordial relationship with her ex-husband with whom she shares two sons, has unwittingly become a symbol of the PTI in London for no fault of her own. Her lack of acrimony towards her ex-husband has led people to believe that she should be treated as if she were still married to Imran and is somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man.

In short, she is paying a hefty price for not being a bitter ex. There were no protests outside the home of Reham Khan, another of Imran's exes, nor were there any outside his own home in Bani Gala. Jemima was the only one whose home was besieged.

She reshared a video on Twitter in which a group of men had gathered, listening to someone with a megaphone shout that they would enter her bedroom if she did not stop the PTI from protesting outside the house of former premier Nawaz Sharif.

"This is a video of hundreds of men protesting for hours outside my 88 yr old mother’s house in Surrey yesterday.

The man with the tannoy is threatening — “If Jemima and her children don’t come down here, then we will enter her bedroom," she wrote, questioning whether this was legal.

And indeed it shouldn't be. Nawaz Sharif is a three-time former prime minister of Pakistan who is still involved in politics. Jemima divorced a man who became prime minister of Pakistan nearly 15 years after their marriage ended. Spot the imposter.

Jemima is not a representative of PTI. She has no stake in the game save a cordial relationship with an ex. Why then is she being targeted so virulently? Also, this isn't the first time that she and her children are being targeted. Our politics and political discourse has devolved so severely in the past couple of years that it's difficult to imagine it once could have been civil, when families were not targeted and hatred was not spread so deeply.

Today, we're in a mess. We've got abuse and vitriol spewed online by politicians and their supporters alike and the victims are rarely the players themselves. Take Jemima for instance. Why is she paying the price for Imran Khan's politics and political decisions? Why is she being told to stop protests outside Nawaz Sharif's home when she has nothing to do with them?

She is not leading any protests, nor are her children. She is not a politician and — save for a few opinionated tweets to which she is fully entitled — she has not even commented on the politics of this country. Why then is she being somehow held responsible for all of this?

Is it because women often pay the price for things they do not do? Or is it because we as a nation have fallen so far into the depths of our political rivalries that we cannot even see the lines that should never be crossed? Is there still time left for us to retrace our steps and get back to civility? Our politicians — all our politicians — will have a real time of it when (or if) they try to get political discourse back to where it should be — on politics, policies and politicians.