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ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s criticism of Imran Khan’s decision to marry again apparently forced the otherwise secretive arch-rival to break his silence on the subject after days of speculation.

Emerging from an accoun­tability court in the capital, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief called Mr Khan the kind of person who “bites the hand that feeds”. He was commenting on rumours of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief’s alleged marriage to his spiritual guide.

“I never indulge in personal issues and have never spoken on personal matters,” he said, but proceeded to comment on what he termed Mr Khan’s “strange behaviour”, saying that he had gone into hiding after stirring up a media frenzy and humiliating the Maneka family.

“It is so sad that he left the children of [the Maneka] family to face the media and give explanations,” he said.

“If you have done something, you should face the people and make it public in a proper way instead of hiding,” was Mr Sharif’s advice to the PTI chief.

The media has been awash with reports claiming that Imran Khan had married his spiritual guru, a mother of five children who recently divorced her husband, a senior bureaucrat currently with the Federal Board of Revenue.

Initially, the Maneka family had denied the news, but on Jan 7, PTI’s official twitter account disclosed that Mr Khan had proposed to Bushra Maneka and awaited her response, as she had sought some time to consult with her family before making the decision.

However, there was no word from Mr Khan himself, until Nawaz Sharif criticised the PTI’s chief over his silence, which had put the Maneka family in an awkward position.

A couple of hours after the former PM’s media talk, Mr Khan broke the silence with six tweets.

“For 3 days I have been wondering have I looted a bank; or money laundered [billions] in nation’s wealth; or ordered a Model Town-like killing spree; or revealed state secrets to India? I have done none of these but discovered I have committed a bigger crime: wanting to get married.

Accusing Nawaz Sharif of orchestrating a campaign against him, he wrote: “My concern is for my children & the very conservative family of Bushra begum, all of whom have been subjected to this malicious campaign.”

Responding to Mr Sharif’s criticism of his personal life, Mr Khan said: “I have known the Sharifs for 40 years and I know all their sordid personal lives but I would never stoop to the level of exposing these sordid details.”

His final tweet contained an emotional appeal: “All I ask of my well-wishers and supporters is that they pray I find personal happiness which, except for a few years, I have been deprived of.”

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2018