Once a person steps into the political arena, their personality becomes tied to their policies. Personal decisions, big or small, flashing across television screens transform into juicy gossip. Some supporters shake their heads in disappointment. Certain opposition parties smile in satisfaction. Analysts add their two cents to the story. But one question then begins to swirl in the common man’s mind: can a politician with an unpredictable (and at times controversial) private life, be trusted to run an entire nation without unpleasant surprises?
In Pakistan, Imran Khan is a brand name — not just an individual. As the founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), he is widely recognised as the torch bearer of change; the man who will build something new. His party gained significant popularity during the previous general elections with the promise to build a better Pakistan. The Panama case verdict against former Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif doubled their supporters. Today many believe PTI might just form the new government. But the former cricket champion often finds himself in hot water over stories concerning his private life, placing his prospects of sitting on the throne in jeopardy.
Recently, an attempt was made to reopen a long buried Pandora’s Box by the ex-chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Chaudhry. He claimed to have proof of Imran Khan fathering a love child (Tyrian White), with deceased heiress Sita White. In 1997, a California judge ruled that Imran Khan was indeed the child’s father, after he failed to contest the paternity suit filed by Sita. However, Mr Khan has never publicly accepted the child as his. During a television interview, the former judge said he would file a case against the PTI chief over the allegations under Article 62 (1)(f) which requires an MNA to be ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’.
Earlier, news of PTI chairman’s (second) former wife Reham Khan releasing a scandalous autobiography, detailing her life at Bani Gala, caused much uproar. According to revelations made by actor Hamza Ali Abbasi, the book paints Imran Khan as a villainous Casanova possessing a harem full of women run by PTI’s foreign media head Anila Khawaja. It also contains a chapter titled ‘Girls, boys, sex, drugs…and rock n’ roll’, allegedly exposing intimate details about the party chief’s partying lifestyle. PTI claims the book’s release was deliberately scheduled just before elections to damage their vote bank. Add Imran Khan’s third marriage to his spiritual guide and mother of five into the mix, and you have a recipe for national disapproval.
In assessing Imran Khan as a potential PM one can question his five percent attendance in national assembly sessions, his party’s performance in KPK, his stance on the Taliban or his perception of feminism. But how many children he has is not our concern
But should the fate of an entire nation be determined by what happens inside a politician’s home?
Einstein once famously said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. And those who label the fish as stupid will live their whole life in ignorance, unaware of the good before them. The ups and downs in a politician’s personal life are not a measure of his intent and capabilities. Imran Khan’s marriages and children have no ties to his vision of a corruption free Pakistan. It is foolish to reject a political party simply because it has a chairman with an imperfect personal life. In assessing Imran Khan as a potential PM one can question his five percent attendance in national assembly sessions, his party’s performance in KPK, his stance on the Taliban or his perception of feminism. But how many children he has is not our concern; it is not a reason to call him dishonest.
Every nation advocates the need for honest politicians. But the people of Pakistan push this requirement to its very extreme. Our voters want their politicians dripping head to toe in the color white; there must be no shades of grey. They demand truth prevail in every answer, even if the question is completely irrelevant. Now as leaders, MNAs and MPAs are understandably held to a higher moral standard than ordinary people. But in doing so, we must not forget that they are still humans with just as many flaws as you and I; politicians do not descend from the sky. Crimes cannot be forgiven but lines have to be drawn between unacceptable and irrelevant acts.
We all live life moving between shades of grey; a little lie here about why you were late to work, a little lie there about why you couldn’t answer the phone. Provocation is a defense against murder. Honest belief is a defense against defamation. Nothing is black and white. Is it then not hypocritical to demand your leader be the epitome of virtue? It is then not unjust to dismiss all the positive aspects of Imran Khan’s persona and the achievements of his party on the basis of stories surrounding his personal life?
On July 25, the people of Pakistan will choose a man they believe is suitable to hold the nation’s reigns. Imran Khan may or may not be successful. But if a vote falls against him, or for that matter against any other politician, it should not be because their private lives are coloured by allegations of immorality. The dirty game of politics must be played outside the house.
The writer has a Masters in media with a distinction from the London School of Economics. She tweets @mawish_m
Published in Daily Times, June 23rd 2018.