Two divorces, a love child and infidelity.
No, I am not talking about my ex Imran Khan, the playboy international cricketer and now Prime Minister of Pakistan, nor am I talking about US President Donald Trump.
I stumbled on this piece of information as I was reading up about the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A few weeks earlier, a former colleague had suggested I write an article on the similarities between Imran Khan and Boris Johnson. I had laughed it off saying I think Imran is more like Trump than Johnson.
But when news broke recently about Johnson’s neighbours calling the police over a loud domestic altercation, my ears perked up. That evening, I sat down to browse about Boris.
Tabloids screamed out: “Philandering MP, embarked on at least five extra-marital flings and got at least two of his mistresses pregnant.”
Imagine my horror as I discovered more shocking similarities between him and Imran Khan.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
I had a vague idea of Boris’s failures in diplomacy from his time as foreign secretary, but had no idea about his personal life. The public persona of Boris was of a humorous, rather likeable, benign posh toff.
Same with Imran Khan – the PM the public sees, and people close to him see are completely different. The alleged argument between Boris and his very young girlfriend was immediately followed by a leaked picture of the loving couple sitting on garden furniture. My mind flew back immediately to the time when Imran had posted a video of the two of us playing cricket in our Bani Gala garden as a cover-up to the news of our imminent divorce.
No surprises that both Imran and Boris went to Oxford and constitute the small group of elites globally who go to the same playgrounds as children and end up on the same partying circuit as adults.
But that Oxford education didn’t help either with their sense of geography – both have referred to Africa as a ‘country’.
References to Imran Khan’s cocaine addiction are commonplace in TV talk shows and memes in Pakistan. It is perhaps the worst kept secret in Pakistan, which I confirmed in my memoir too. Our new British PM flits between volunteering information himself on live TV and dodging direct questions, as per his mood.
I recall a clip with Paul Merton from Room 101 in which Boris responds to a question about drugs with: “What do you want me to say?”
Now, he insists his introduction to cocaine was just that one time long ago, and he very innocently thought he was being offered icing sugar.
Racist sons of immigrants
All three – Trump, Khan and Johnson – have chosen to marry women of other ethnicities and cultures, but have then gone on to attack immigrants and refugees as politicians.
Not many people are aware that Johnson’s second wife hails from the Pakistani city of Sargodha and is of Sikh origin. Four of his declared children are from this marriage. Boris Johnson has spared no opportunity to be openly racist and hostile to immigrants.
To add to the irony, all three men come from migrant families themselves but when it comes to sympathy for refugees their track record is dismal.
Imran’s family migrated from India after Partition.
Johnson has the most mixed-race heritage out of all three men. His great grandfather, Ali Kemal, was a Muslim Turk who was lynched by a mob and brutally murdered. Kemal was respected for his strong liberal democratic ideas and he had spent much of his life in exile. Boris’s grandfather Osman Kemal changed his name on arriving in the UK and that is why we have the Johnson surname. Boris’ mother is of Jewish heritage. He himself had dual nationality. With this in mind, his Brexit stance seems baffling.
Trump is the grandson of German immigrants and his own Scottish mother came looking for domestic work in America. These are the very kind of people he chooses to attack these days. And of course, he just told the ‘squad’ to go back “where they came from”.
To be fair, all three men’s celebrity status grew on the basis of their arrogant, rude, self-entitled and sexist personas.
Imran built his reputation as the cricket captain who made grown men cry in the dressing room. The kick-ass captain was feared so much that not only could he sack anyone from the team, but no one dared to question him in person.
Now that Trump has given both of them the literal and proverbial pat on the back by calling them tough and different like him, we have further cause for concern.
Good old Donald went as far as calling Boris the “Britain Trump”.
Affair with fake news
Although publicly, all three men attack everything against them as fake news, they are guilty of making up stuff too.
Johnson was sacked from the Times early on in his career after he was found inventing a quote by historian Colin Lucas for an article. In fact, he was branded “one of the greatest exponents of fake journalism” by Chris Patten, former chairman of the Conservative Party and former chairman of the BBC Trust.
Imran too is notorious for making up numbers and facts on a whim. When challenged on what he might have said earlier, he laughs it off later and calls it political rhetoric.
Trump’s affair with fake news, of course, needs no introduction.
Peter Pan syndrome
Both Boris and Imran’s childhoods were not the happiest. Mothers struggling with depression while fathers were being neglectful or absent. It strikes me that both Boris and Imran had very isolated lifestyles. Celebrity status merely added to the isolation, it seems.
A deep-rooted insecurity screams out to me. As a child, Boris wanted to be the “king of the world”.
For Imran, too, bringing in the biggest trophy was his way of gaining respect in the family. He had been ridiculed early on for his lack of intellect by siblings and family.
The arrogance with which these men now strut about is further evidence of not feeling very secure. A secure man is quietly confident.
As the American President, of course, Trump is louder than the other two.
This is typical of the Peter Pan syndrome. Little boys who refuse to grow up and behave like sensible adults. They hang onto their adolescence as stubbornly as they do to their hairstyles.
For Imran Khan, it has always been about winning. It is all about personal glory. He just wanted to become the PM – to win – that was the target, nothing beyond it. Every step he took was a means to that end. A shrewd player who plays the simpleton act very well. Boris, I suspect, hides a very cunning mind beneath that cuddly teddy bear appearance.
Making of an unapologetic man
By far, the greatest feature they all have in common is a lack of remorse and the fact that they survive every revelation, every mistake they make. They come out unscathed and their meteoric rise is, in fact, built on these very failings. It seems being a womaniser, racist or sexist, is part of their appeal. We are as guilty as these men for laughing it all off and allowing them to carry on.
Imran’s words ring in my ears: “We have poor candidates because clean people like you Reham don’t want to get their hands dirty in politics.”
Reham Khan is a journalist, child rights activist, and a single parent. She authored ‘Reham Khan’, an autobiography. Views are personal.