Jemima recalls her ordeal

December 03, 2007

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LONDON, Dec 2: Recalling some of her not-so-happy experiences in Pakistan when she was “married to an outspoken opposition politician” Jemima Khan in a Sunday Telegraph article remembered rather bitterly that during the 1997 election campaign, Imran was widely accused of being part of a Zionist conspiracy because of his marriage to a person “with a Jewish father and Jewish maiden name.”

She recalled that during the 2004 election campaign she had said in an interview that she had studied Salman Rushdie’s book Shame for her university thesis on post-colonial literature.

“A mob of crazed (and politicised) mullahs allied to the party created by Pervez Musharraf, the PML(Q), insisted that this admission was tantamount to apostasy, that my citizenship be revoked and that I be thrown out of the country. They took out full-page newspaper ads, inciting people to riot outside our home. Bearded fundos took to the streets with placards bearing my name (misspelt) and the word “infidel”. In both cases, religion was used to justify what were in fact political attacks,” she added.

She said that in 1998 she was also falsely accused by Nawaz Sharif’s government of smuggling antiques – a non-bailable offence.

“I’m afraid I scarpered before I could be arrested and only returned to Pakistan six months later, once there had been a military coup and the charges against me had been dropped,” she mockingly recalled.

She said that earlier in 1997 Benazir Bhutto had alluded to the claims of Imran being a part of Zionist conspiracy on national television.

“My then-husband had an untarnished political record, but a wife with a Jewish father and a Jewish maiden name was his Achilles heel. A bogus cheque for £40 million, supposedly from my father to fund Imran’s campaign, appeared in all the Pakistani newspapers. The fact that he failed to win a single seat, partly thanks to the smear campaign, put paid to the accusation. Imran experienced all the disadvantages of marrying a girl with money and, being a proud, self-sufficient type, none of the advantages,” she remembered.

But her choicest observation she seemed to have reserved for Imran himself as she took a light-hearted swipe at him to begin her piece: When my son was four years old I found him playing with a one-armed Action Man. I asked him what had happened to Action Man. He replied, “Aba (Daddy in Urdu) said he’d been stealing.” Imran’s idea of a joke.

Turning to the topic of the article Ms Khan said “religion has often been used in Muslim countries for political ends.”

So, according to her, Gillian Gibbons’s case (in Sudan) may be another example of religion being used to make a political point. Or it may just be a case of religious zealots gone mad.

She noted that the strongest response on this occasion has come, not from (British) government but from the Muslim community.

Two British Muslim peers, Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi, arrived in Sudan (on Friday) to negotiate Mrs Gibbons’s release. And Dr Mohammad Abdul Bari, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said he was “appalled” at the “disgraceful decision” to convict the patently innocent teacher.