It seems unlikely that marrying Bushra Manika has put Imran Khan on the road to Prime Minister House.
Imran Khan’s party announced Sunday that Imran Khan has married his spiritual faith healer Bushra Manika aka Pinki Pirni. The pictures produced in the media showed a beaming Imran Khan with a fully veiled woman along with the Nikah Khawan (the officiator of the wedding) and the witnesses.
What is interesting though is that Pakistani journalist Umar Cheema got the details right down to the last dot in his story right after New Year’s day when he claimed that Imran Khan got married again. There were furious denials amidst which Imran Khan’s party put out an official statement denying that any such marriage had taken place. Soon afterwards, the ex-husband got on the television and declared that his ex-wife was the purest of the pure and that there was no reason to suspect any relationship between her and Imran.
The truth is stranger than fiction. As a born again Muslim in the sufi tradition, Imran Khan is a deeply religious and superstitious type even if his antics as a notorious playboy are sometimes in conflict with that reality. This means he is susceptible to all sorts of manipulation and suggestion. For years now, his spiritual advisors have been telling him what to do and what not to do in order to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Bushra Manika, better known as Pinki Pirni, is the latest of these advisors. She was married to a civil servant Khawar Fareed Manika who had a bit of reputation when it came to corruption but he and his wife became devotees to the Sufi Saint Baba Farid Ganj Baksh. A couple of years ago, she is rumored to have tried to hitch up Imran Khan with her sister but that did not work out. Reham Khan, the dignified former wife of Khan who was married for precisely one year, swears by the fact that her marriage was sabotaged by Pinki Pirni. The dogged insistence by Imran Khan that he should both marry and divorce Reham on 31 October seems to lend credence to this.
The story then goes, and it remains unchallenged by the Manikas, is that Pinki Pirni is said to have had a dream where the most holy personage in Islam told her that for Imran Khan to be Prime Minister, she must marry him and if she does, both Pakistan and Islam will truly prosper. Pinki Pirni then narrated this to her husband who agreed to give her a divorce for the sake of the cause of Islam in Pakistan. They divorced in November 2017 citing spiritual reasons as cause. Her son Musa Manika on TV repeatedly confirmed that the divorce happened strictly on orders from “Allah and his Messenger”. Apparently Pinki Pirni has a direct line to the divine realm.
There are several issues that any Pakistani concerned about Pakistan and its well-being should take with this state of affairs. Imran Khan very much sees himself as the Prime Minister-in-waiting. Those of us who have met him know that he refers to him as precisely that without mincing any words. Yet he is apparently driven by spiritual counsel from people who very much seem to be frauds and scam artists. This speaks volumes about his ability to choose people and puts a big question mark on his ability to lead. He was always a jock but in recent years he seems to have lost his marbles altogether. Unlike the seasoned politicians in PML-N, PPP and other parties, all his moves are impulsive bordering on irrational. We now know the reason behind his irrational impulsiveness.
Secondly, contrary to the image of him as an honest politician who was given the certificate of Sadiq and Ameen by an eager Supreme Court out to promote its “ladla” as Nawaz Sharif calls him, Imran Khan clearly lied about the precise timing of his marriage. Unless the journalist Umar Cheema is some sort of super pir or soothsayer, there is no way the marriage took place this past Sunday. It is almost a certainty that the marriage took place at the beginning of the year just as Cheema said it did. Reham Khan has also claimed on several occasions that even her marriage was kept secret for three months.
Apparently Imran Khan waits for some sort of sign to make these announcements. Some people may call it spirituality but it has no basis in the legalistic and formalistic nature of the religion of Islam. On the contrary, this desire to seek signs seems more like a mental illness.
Whatever the case, it is clear that in one stroke Imran Khan has managed to alienate several sections amongst his supporters. The “burger” class amongst his supporters is not happy that he married a woman who is dressed in a shuttlecock burqah. Many feel betrayed that Imran Khan has chosen to engage in a personal controversy instead of focusing on the task ahead. The more extreme religious wing of his party, comprising the straitjacket Deobandis who he has been coddling up to, are in any event allergic to Sufism. It seems unlikely that marrying Bushra Manika has put Imran Khan on the road to Prime Minister House.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer and a visiting fellow at Harvard Law School.