Playboy to PM-in-Waiting: Imran Khan’s Political Metamorphosis
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
Pakistan’s new Prime Minister-in-waiting, Imran Khan, has done a complete turnaround of his image since his heydeys as Pakistan’s most famous cricketer.
After leading Pakistan to its first and only cricket World Cup victory in 1992, Imran gained reputation as a playboy in London’s party scene. His first wife, Jemima Goldsmith, was a British heiress. They got married in 1995, and divorced in 2004.
In 1996, Imran founded Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the political party which took him to victory in the 2018 Pakistan general election. However, back then, he had faced staunch opposition for having married a Jewish woman.
In the early days of his political career, he saw limited success – he was considered something of a joke in political circles. Slowly but surely, he turned his political fortunes around, helped in no small part by the radical transformation in his image. From legendary cricketer and playboy, he grew into a pious politician.
In 2011, Imran married his second wife, journalist Reham Khan. While this was not considered as bad as marrying a Jewish woman, she was still a British citizen, and therefore ‘foreign’. The marriage lasted only 10 months, and spawned a salacious tell-all book that Reham published just before the 2018 polls. But the allegations in the book – of adultery, drug-taking, and superstition – barely made a dent in Imran’s image. Pakistani youth seemed unconvinced.
After his failed marriage to Reham, Imran remarried for a third time in 2018 – this time, his transformation from partyboy to piety was pronounced. He claimed not to even have seen his new bride’s face before he married her, due to her refusal to show her face to any man outside her family before marriage. Bushra Maneka appeared in their wedding photos completely shrouded from head to toe, in keeping with his rapid political turn towards religious conservatism. Having courted both the religious clerics and the Army, Imran saw a rise in his political stature, to where he is now – the Pakistani PM-in-waiting.