The Pakistani politician hated that his then wife Jemima partied and often portrayed her as a hysteric woman, writes Reham Khan in new book
He (Imran Khan) repeatedly painted an image of Jemima as a typical hysterical woman who would cry in front of the kids and emotionally blackmail them into sending him messages.
I didn’t really know how to respond to this account of his first marriage on our wedding night. Despite not really wanting to know much of his past (and not asking), this would not be the last I heard of Jemima or other exes. I felt awful that a young girl had been made to listen to past stories, and could completely relate to her. Imran, ironically, described Jemima as a woman who had awful taste in men. In the first weeks of our time together, he kept discussing and ridiculing Jemima for her choices: from Hugh Grant, who had been caught with a prostitute in Hollywood, to Russell Brand, who had been very open about his drug abuse and sex addiction. Imran insisted that she went for men who behaved badly. Imran disapproved of her choices but the fact that he seemed very similar to these other men flew over his head. Interestingly, Imran was all praise for her father, who had always been unapologetic and open about his string of mistresses.
It seemed Jemima had worse luck with men than me, but Imran blamed her volatile temperament for her many failed attempts. He told me that her ex-boyfriends had asked him for advice on how to deal with her temper-tantrums. I remembered reading somewhere and almost cheering that her first boyfriend, Joel, who was from the Cadbury dynasty, was dumped on the hard shoulder of a motorway after a heated argument. No one questions men when they lose their temper, but women are defamed for it.
Imran was dismissive of her obsession with hanging out with celebrities too. He said he couldn’t reconcile himself to the fact that his young wife loved parties and hung out with young celebrities. He first saw a glimpse of the fangirl in her when they met Hugh Grant at a party. Imran said he could see how starry-eyed she was, and it filled him with disgust. Once again, Imran failed to recognise that he was also a celebrity who had been known for his partying. I pointed out that she was free to do what she wanted, but Imran simply continued by saying that her family regretted the fact she had left Imran, and worried about her as she moved from one bad egg to another. The way he put it, it seemed less like Imran and Jemima, and more like Imran and the Goldsmiths.
Imran told me that he’d actually been interested in Jemima’s older half-sister, and was friendly with the father. The young Jemima, however, was apparently so besotted with him that she came down for a holiday in the Salt Lake Region on his invitation. Zak, his partner-in-crime, accompanied them with another woman. The two couples went on an expedition to explore the area. Imran would laugh about how he was fooled by her earnestness. He described how they walked until they reached a poor man’s hut and Jemima had emphatically declared that she would be happy in a hut like that if she was with him.
Imran had told me that Jemima kept him on his toes with either direct phone calls to him or messages via the children. The kids called Imran a few times while I was in Bani Gala, asking him why he had made ‘Amma’ upset. Just before the start of the dharna in July, Jemima was particularly sensitive. Imran told me she had just miscarried and was devastated. She had been dating Russell Brand at the time. I was very touched by how supportive Imran was during this time. He knew the relationship with Russell was going through a very tough patch as the comedian had consulted Imran for advice. In Imran’s words, her repeated disastrous relationships and dreadful taste in men were taking atoll on her. He described Jemima’s relationship with her mother and brothers as pretty ‘fractured’. Apparently, they all turned to him to communicate with each other. His concern for his ex appeared to be charming before we got married. I saw him as an understanding ex capable of remaining good friends.
Unfortunately, I would discover the level of control his ex-wife and her family had over him when I started to live with him. Despite his supportive behaviour, Jemima had expected Imran to entertain the kids while she went on holiday with Russell, even though Imran’s dharna was about to start. At the time, Qasim was suffering from a serious tendon injury. Imran simply told me that he could not say no, despite the stress of the dharna. It appeared that Imran had no say in anything, and could not stand up for his rights as a father.
It was still early days for us, so I didn’t feel I could comment. I did think it was odd that she could seemingly have whatever relationships she wanted but Imran had to seek permission from her for his. After all, the kids didn’t even live with him. He only saw them for a few days in the summer, or on Christmas and Easter. From the minute Imran proposed, till December, when we were all over the news, I heard Imran repeatedly say that he needed to go see the kids and get their approval.
Jemima was only 21 when she married a 43-year-old Imran. For Jemima, marrying a much older man from another culture couldn’t have been much fun. Imran always said that he had connected better with his in-laws than his very young wife. Friends would tell me how the cultural restrictions weren’t the ideal start for the very young London socialite. Her time with Imran is described by most as a very suffocating experience for her. I could very much relate to a very young girl separated from all of her friends and surrounded by much older people in an oppressive atmosphere.
Her two brothers also got married in their early twenties. However, the Rothschilds and Goldsmiths shared a strong historical and religious bond. Both were Jewish banking families, with a history of political posts and influence in the Conservative party. In fact, Sir James Goldsmith was a protégé of Edmonde de Rothschild, long before his two sons married into this even richer Jewish family.
More than the Sharifs, it was Jemima who was damaging Imran’s politics. She was posting images of herself with Tyrian on Instagram. In one post, she called the youngster her stepdaughter, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that Imran was her father. The timing was curious. I realised that my growing image in Pakistan had motivated this subtle blackmailing. I felt sorry for the poor girl who was now, through no fault of her own, always at the centre of her parent and guardian’s issues, and a political tug-of-war.
During Imran’s repeated emotional issues with Suleiman, he said to me that he would communicate more with Tyrian. He showed me some of her texts. It seemed she gave the most sensible advice in the family. She told Imran repeatedly to ignore Suleiman’s childish demands, and to not be emotionally blackmailed by them. She would say, “He will grow out of it soon”. But Imran told me that it had taken Suleiman ten years to accept Tyrian. Imran would stay in contact over the phone and meet Tyrian in Jemima’s house when in London.
In reality, I could never really get rid of any of the exes, but I didn’t initially see Jemima as any threat to our relationship. Besides, she was the mother of his children so it was understandable that contact had to be maintained. I had never even brought up the subject of Jemima in the house. She was his past. I was his present, and I was confident of Imran loving me. She was mentioned only by Imran, and frequently. In private, it was far from complimentary. In public, she was mentioned in all interviews, and very favourably. I understood it was good for his image to be seen as a good ex-husband, and I used it myself in speeches. He may not have told me he liked her, but he was a very accommodating ex-husband so I wasn’t really lying. Other people brought this up.
During our first interview together on the evening of the valima, the interviewer had asked if I was disturbed by the presence of ‘Rebecca’ in the house, referring to the Daphne Du Maurier novel. I was puzzled at why he would say so. When I would look after Imran back then, he would comment on the sukh (bliss) of marriage.
Through these two years, the couple had visited marriage counsellors on Jemima’s insistence. One interaction that Imran described to me was quite insightful. He said, “I was sex deprived, and she took me to this counsellor with huge breasts. I can’t recall anything except that Jemima kept on droning about my flaws, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off the woman’s breasts”. Needless to say, counselling did not work. Imran said that the last time Jemima came over to Pakistan just before their divorce, he was surprised to find a rather different, responsive wife. He described it as the best sex they had ever had in all their time together, but as soon as she returned, she was back with Hugh Grant.
This is an excerpt from Pakistani journalist Reham Khan’s autobiography. The book is published by SK Publishing Ltd.