Imran Khan and Bushra Maneka Image Credit: Supplied

Imran Khan’s journey from Jemima to Bushra

By Sana Jamal, Correspondent

Renowned Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has tied the knot for the third time with a woman described by media as his “spiritual mentor”.

In a low-key ceremony held in Lahore, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Khan married Bushra Watto, who was clad from head-to-toe and with a veil covering her face in the photos shared by PTI on social media.

With his marriage to Watto, who belongs to a religious and conservative family, Khan has shed the playboy status that he once held in his younger years and reverted to Pakistan’s traditional society. Khan, hailed as hero of Cricket World Cup 1992, was once known as Pakistan’s most eligible bachelor.

From blonde English heiress Jemima Goldsmith to Pakistani TV journalist Reham Khan and now spiritual adviser Watto, Khan it seems has come full circle at the age of 65.

Khan’s previous two marriages captivated both global and local media, especially his first marriage to Goldsmith, a British socialite, in 1995, with whom he has two sons, Sulaiman and Qasim. The marriage that lasted nine years ended amiably but Khan admitted in his 2011 book, Pakistan: A Personal History: The “six months leading to the divorce and the six months after were the hardest times of my life.” Khan’s second marriage to Pakistani journalist Reham Khan ended after 10 months in 2015.

The news of his third marriage has both surprised and pleased many of his followers and party leaders.

“Congratulations to IK on his nikah to Bushra today. May he find happiness in his personal life. Wish him the best” tweeted Shireen Mazari, senior PTI leader. Khan’s close confidante Awn Chaudhry and other party members also wished the couple well.

Political rivals including PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry have ridiculed Khan’s latest marriage. A disheartened fan, Mudassir Jamil, said: “Imran has now made a record of hat-trick in marriages although we expected to him to make hat-trick in politics.” 

Analysts agree that Khan’s third marriage would impact his politics as the senate and general elections in Pakistan are just around the corner.

“I wonder how and when does he get time for politics. He seems to be too busy in [his] personal life at a time when he should be focused in winning the trust of the public due to upcoming elections,” Maria Haider, a university student, said.

Khan’s party recently faced a setback after unexpected defeat in the Lodhran by-election which analysts term as “an eye-opener for the party leadership”. According to Adnan Rasool, PhD in Political Science at Georgia State University, “The PTI lacks two things at this stage. Firstly, they lack discipline and secondly, they lack the understanding of local politics.”

Over the past few years, Khan has emerged as a strong candidate for top position in Pakistani politics following the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif through judicial proceedings and Khan’s politics of social justice and rule of law. He has built a large following particularly in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where his party has been in power since 2013.

Who is Imran Khan?

By Yousra Zaki, Deputy Editor - Guides

A Pakistani politician and former Cricket champion. He was born on October 5, 1952; he is 65 years old.

Why is Imran Khan so popular?

Khan is loved by millions across cricket-obsessed Pakistan. He became one of the world's greatest all-rounders - a fearsome fast bowler and dangerous batsman - whose finest hour came at the 1992 World Cup, where at the age of 39 he led an inexperienced team to the title. Khan acquired a reputation as a playboy during his international cricket career.

What was his childhood like?

Khan was born in Lahore into an affluent family with origins in the Pashtun northwest. He was educated at Pakistan's prestigious Aitchison College, then went to boarding school in England and onwards to Oxford University.

Imran Khan's previous marriages 

Khan married British socialite Jemima Khan in 1995 and had two sons with her before their divorce in 2004. The split was attributed to the difficulties she faced in Pakistan, where she was hounded for her family's Jewish ancestry, and to his obsession with politics.

He then married Reham Khan, host of a local TV talk show and a BBC weather segment. They then divorced suddenly in October 2015, just ten months after they wed. She was widely criticised after appearing at public meetings of PTI, with opponents accusing her of seeking to boost her own profile through her husband's fame.

His life as a politician

Khan has spoken of his aspirations of becoming Pakistan's next prime minister following parliamentary elections, due in July this year. He has also been a vocal critic of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Khan's party plans to contest a general election due in Pakistan this year, telling AFP in a recent interview that he believes this is PTI's "biggest chance" at seizing power.

Sexual harassment issues

Ayesha Gulalai, a National Assembly member from conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, accused Khan and other leaders of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of sending obscene text messages and promoting a culture of sexism. Pakistan’s current Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, then backed a parliamentary investigation into these allegations.

His marriage to Bushra Maneka

Rumours about Khan's third marriage started circulating in January. The nuptials ended rumours that had been swirling for months about Khan considering a third marriage.

Who is Bushra Maneka?

By Dona Cherian, Writer - Guides

Bushra Maneka or Bushra Wattoo (maiden name) is also known as Bushra Bibi and Pinki Pir, in local media reports.

Maneka comes from a deeply conservative and politically influential family, of the Wattoo clan, from eastern Punjab. She is a resident of Pakpatan district, some 250 km from Lahore, which is known for the shrine of Baba Farid Ganj Shakar.

Also reported as being a ‘faith healer’, she is a devoted follower of Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, something she shares with Imran Khan. It is widely accepted that this is the common factor that ultimately led to her relationship with Imran Khan and his subsequent proposal.

The shrine in her district is the same one that Imran Khan is alleged to have travelled to, as early as 2015 to get spiritual advice and mentorship.

Bushra Maneka’s former marriage

Maneka has five children from her first marriage to Khawar Fareed Maneka, a senior customs official, and son of former seasoned politician and Federal Minister Ghulam Farid Maneka. They got divorced in 2017.  She has three sons and two daughters, according to Pakistani media reports.

Her sons, Musa Maneka and Ebrahim Maneka, graduated from Aitchison College in 2013 and pursued higher studies abroad. Her eldest daughter Mehru Maneka is the daughter-in-law of son of Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Atta Maneka.

Bushra and Imran Khan

As reported by PTI, Khan had started visiting her over a year ago to seek spiritual advice.

"He got closer to her when some of political predictions she made about his party came true. Later, both developed some 'intimacy' and finally Bushra took divorce from her husband and [got into a] marriage [contract] with Imran early last month," the PTI source said.  Last month, Khan had admitted that he had proposed marriage to Maneka.

PTI [party] spokesman Fawad Chaudhry also told AFP the couple had known one another "for a long time" but declined to provide further details

However, PTI reported that Khan denied having sent the proposal before Maneka’s divorce. "I would like to reiterate that every time I met her, with family and alone, she has been in purdah (veil). My interest in her lies in the fact that I have not seen or met anyone with her level of spirituality. I only sent the proposal for marriage after she divorced her husband," said Khan.

Khawar Fareed Maneka, Bushra’s ex-husband, sent out a message confirming this in January, after reports of the marriage to Khan started circulating. “I want to clearly state about my former wife, Bushra Bibi, that I have not seen a woman as pious as her in the world,” he said in a video message.

“Imran is not the reason for the divorce

When asked in an interview with Geo News TV if Imran was a reason for this divorce, he clarified: “No! Imran is not the reason for the divorce. There were some things related to spirituality between me and my ex-wife that led us to the decision to end the marriage.”

Khawar said that he had divorced his ex-wife himself and that she had not demanded ‘Khula’ (separation) from him. He said that they had spent 30 years of marriage as a happy marriage with Bushra, but there were some problems during the last couple of years that led to the divorce, which was settled in late 2017.

Who is Baba Farid?

By Meher Murshed, Gulf News Online Editor

Nizamuddin Auliya, the Chishti Sufi saint of Delhi, had one longing when he was a child – to place his head at the feet of the master Baba Farid.

It was 1256, Nizamuddin was a boy of 12 when a minstrel, Abu Bakr Kharrat, came to Badaon, now in Uttar Pradesh in India, to see his teacher. The minstrel spoke of his visit to Baba Farid, who lived in Nizamuddin’s heart from then on.

Eight years later, when Nizamuddin was 20, he left Delhi and travelled to Ajodhan, now Pakpattan in Pakistan, to meet his master. Baba Farid, then 90, realised Nizamuddin was trembling with awe.

He welcomed him with these words: “The fire of your separation has burnt many hearts. The storm of desire to meet you has ravaged many lives.”

But who is Baba Farid?

Baba Fareed's shrine located in Pakpattan, Pakistan

Why does Imran Khan – the man who would wreak terror among batsmen as he turned in his run-up and delivered a ball with the ferocity of a vicious gale, swinging with brutal pace – visit his shrine, more than 750 years after his death?

Ever since he was a child, Farid was different. He would recite his prayers, and his mother, would give him sugar, which he loved. The story goes that when he grew older and his mother did not give him sugar for saying his prayers, Farid would get his packet. This was one of the reasons Farid came to be known as Ganj-e-Shakr, the Treasury of Sweet.

The saint of Ajmer, Moinuddin Chishti, who introduced Chishti Sufism to the subcontinent, appointed Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki his successor. Farid succeeded Qutbuddin and carried on the work of Chishti masters – they fed the poor to realise the Divine.

They opened khanqahs or retreats. People would donate food, which would be distributed among the poor. Nothing was stored for the next day. The masters themselves fasted nearly every day, eating sparingly at Iftar.

Nizamuddin’s responsibility was to boil a broth of wild fruits in Farid’s khanqah when there was no food. Nizamuddin was boiling broth one day, when he found there was no salt in the kitchen. He went to the grocer and bought some salt on credit since he had no money. He placed the broth before his master.

Farid put his hand into the broth and stopped. “My hand has become heavy. Perhaps, there is something in it that I am not permitted to put a morsel in my mouth,” he said.

Nizamuddin trembled. He placed his head on the ground and said: “This man boils the wild fruit and prepares the broth. He brings it before his master. There seems nothing to doubt. The master knows that.”

Baba Farid asked about the salt. Nizamuddin placed his head on the ground again and told him how he had got it.

“Dervishes prefer to die of starvation rather than incur debt to satisfy their desires. Debt and resignation are poles apart and cannot co-exist,” Farid said. He did not touch the broth.

Nizamuddin spent many months learning with Baba Farid, who once said to him: “You will be a tree under whose soothing shade people will find comfort.”

Farid spent more than 70 years in the service of the poor. When he passed, there was no money to buy a shroud. A disciple, Amir Khurd’s grandmother, gave a white sheet to cover his coffin. The door of Farid’s hut was broken down — the unbaked bricks were used to construct the grave.

Baba Farid had appointed Nizamuddin as his successor and he carried on the work of the Chishti Sufis.

Imran Khan went to Baba Farid seeking peace and solace. And there in Pakpattan Khan is said to have met his newly married wife Bushra Maneka, described by some as a faith healer. Khan would also turn to Maneka for spiritual sustenance in moments of doubt.

For more than hundreds of years, people across religion have thronged to Sufi shrines  – the poor are fed and there are those seeking solace.

As Amir Khusro, Nizamuddin Auliya’s favourite disciple and court poet of the sultans, once said:

‘I do not know what abode it was, that place where I was last night.

On every side I saw the dance of the Divine in that place I was last night.’