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KARACHI: The word ‘eagerly’ doesn’t even begin to describe the way journalist Reham Khan’s book — detailing the period of her life that she spent with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan as his second wife — was being awaited by admirers of the cricketer-turned-politician, his detractors and students of the chequered history of Pakistani politics. Ever since some of the book’s, allegedly, salacious contents were put up on social media a few months back, followed by lengthy chinwags on television talk shows, the debate surrounding whether the book was going to see the light of day refused to lose steam.

Things took another sudden turn on Thursday when it was reported that the book — titled Reham Khan — had finally been launched in London, and its Kindle version released on Amazon. It created a frenzy among all and sundry. Of course, it was something that couldn’t be trusted just like that. Is it true? Is it the right version? Is it something that Reham wanted to put forth? Or is it all a big, fat hoax?

Well, it wasn’t a hoax. Reham’s interview on Geo TV on Thurs­day evening cleared, at least, one thing: the book has been published. If the interview is anything to go by, how her published work is going to be received is not that difficult to guess.

Book is available in paperback in UK and on Amazon worldwide

PTI leader Shafqat Mehmood told Dawn that he had not yet read the book as he was busy in his election campaign, but he knew that there would only be “lies and accusations” in it. He further said the timing of the book’s publication proved that it was a “sponsored project.” He said the motive behind launching of the book was to “influence” the elections. “Such dirty tactics will not work.”

Though Reham’s initial responses to interviewer Muneeb Farooq’s questions were rather flimsy and clichéd — such as, the intention of recounting life with Imran is ‘islah’ [to correct, improve or reform] and all is done in ‘good faith’ –– her resoluteness with regard to claiming that what she’s written is true, was intriguing. Farooq uttered the phrase ‘sexual preferences’ at least twice in relation to disclosures made in the book about the politician (and was coy enough not to explicate it on national television) and Reham did not deny them. He also touched upon, albeit fleetingly, on ‘no strings attached women’, and Reham replied without giving the impression that what he said was false. It lent credence (the word salacious comes to mind, again) to all the assumptions made by PTI followers when the news of the book first broke. Reham, interestingly, called it all ‘an expose about myself’, implying that she was naïve to get in a relationship with him.

But she was scathing while discussing Imran’s political acumen, which she mentioned she had detailed in the book. She pointed out that she repeatedly asked the PTI chairman, when they were married, to tone down the way he delivered speeches, for if he were to earn a name in history books, his words should be phrased like those of Bacha Khan’s or M.A. Jinnah’s. She even doubted his ‘commitment’ as a politician, arguing he could not handle affairs of a nuclear state with such acumen. Perhaps the one thing that will be discussed with a great deal of fervour by people of all political persuasions is that Imran gets vegetables from Tariq Fazal Chaudhry’s farm, who is a former PML-N federal minister — for the uninitiated, the PML-N and the PTI are always at daggers drawn.

Where does Reham’s fearlessness come from? She denies her linkages with any of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders. She appears super willing if someone drags her to a court of law vis-à-vis the book’s contents. Her remark that she’s kept certain things for the book and certain others for the courts clearly indicates that there’s a method to the madness. She is in London these days. She’s a British national. She seems to have the full support of her publisher who could not have sent the manuscript to print without weighing all the pros and cons of publishing such incendiary material.

The timing of the book will always be questioned. After all, it’s election time. But the die is cast. The ball is now in Imran’s court. In his heyday, he ducked many a bouncer, hit quite a few for towering sixes. He also bowled lethal toe-crushing in-dippers. This is a different ball game, though. Miscues or wayward deliveries can cause irreparable damage. Sensible play could see him through. How and when the curtains will come down on this engaging story, only time will tell.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018