Pakistani Politics Still Hounds Jemima


And we should feel ashamed

Yesterday when the political opponents of Imran Khan were protesting outside the residence of Jemima Khan and her elderly mother, Lady Annabel Goldsmith, I felt deeply ashamed and embarrassed as a Pakistani. Jemima has got nothing to do with the politics of Pakistan except for the fact that her ‘ex-husband’ is Imran Khan – someone who decided to stand up against the corrupt political elite of Pakistan hogging all the resources of the country. A stance that recently reaffirmed from the Panama papers revelations. When Imran Khan started his political career in 1996, his opponents desperately tried to do everything to malign him. When found nothing against him, Jemima became the target of that vicious political campaign. One can image the impacts of it on a 21 year old girl who had recently converted to Islam and was making huge efforts to adapt to life in Pakistan.


It started off by calling their marriage a ‘Zionist Conspiracy’ because of Jemima’s half Jewish ancestry. Both Imran and Jemima were termed as part of the ‘Jewish Lobby’ who, according to them, wanted to reach down to the corridors of power in Pakistan to destabilise the country. The propagandists were smart enough to know that they could ‘sell’ that idea easily and hence did not only try to finish Imran’s politics but also endangered the lives of newly married couple. While promoting those dreadful narratives against Imran and Jemima, they completely forgot that at that point Jemima was being heavily criticised in the West for converting to Islam. She received a barrage of threatening and hateful messages after she wrote an article in Nov, 2000 for Guardian in which she argued that the US media and policy makers are largely pro-Israel and that it’s hard to resolve crisis in Middle-East with the US’s biased approach towards Israel Palestine issue. She was accused of being an ‘Anti-Semite’ and even her family Lawyer, Mr Simpson, who served the Goldsmith family for almost 30 years, refused to provide his legal services to her.


However, such incidents were of little importance for hate-filled political opponents of her husband, who had found a soft target in Jemima to attack Imran. The propaganda against her persisted in Pakistan in spite of her being accused as an Anti-Semitic in the West. Meanwhile, another scandal was orchestrated and she was accused of consulting controversial anti-Muslim novel by Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, while she was studying at the Bristol University. To prove her an enemy of Islam, it was also alleged that Mr Rushdie also reviewed her dissertation. Jemima flatly rejected those baseless allegations and said she had never even met Rushdie in her entire life.

This unusual series of allegations against her continued and the next blame was a lethal one. This time she was accused of smuggling antique tiles from Pakistan. Despite the fact that the those tiles were purchased from a shop in Islamabad who had issued a certificate to Jemima that they were replica of the original and had no historical significance, the customs authorities in Pakistan registered a smuggling case against her. Jemima had to flee the country to avoid jail and to stay away from that malicious political campaign targeting her personal life. The allegations were proved to be false but certainly left huge impacts on her personal life. Interestingly, that tiles scandal came after Imran staged a protest against the corruption of Mr Nawaz Sharif outside his property in London.

In the wake of Panama Leaks when Mr Nawaz Sharif’s name is out in the public domain alongside various other political leaders alleged to have offshore companies for their personal benefits, it seems like the history is repeating itself after eighteen years. Although a lot has changed and Jemima and Imran are no longer married; but what has not changed is the corruption of our ruling elite. And Imran’s consistent stance to challenge it at every level. The Panama papers unveiled offshore companies of Sharif’s family who had been used to buy multi-million pound properties in London. It caused a huge outrage in the media and public at large. It is alleged that Mr Sharif and his family are also involved in money laundering from Pakistan. Imran Khan and his political party, the PTI, are at the forefront of demanding a thorough investigation into this matter. Sadly, Mr Sharif’s party perpetuated their traditional style of attacking Imran through Jemima even after their divorce and this time a nonsensical protest was staged outside her home in London.

As much as I felt ashamed of that ludicrous protest, I also felt huge respect for Jemima who never gave up supporting the people of Pakistani even in the face of an atrocious campaign against her from the ruling elite of Pakistan. She remained focused on raising funds for the Shaukat Khanam Cancer Hospital and helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan who had fled the Taliban. Even when she was away from Pakistan after the infamous Tiles scandal, she set up a business in London with an aim to help underprivileged Pakistani women. She employed around 700 to 1000 women in Pakistan to work in her dress designing business and help promote Pakistani culture abroad.

Jemima did not say much about the yesterday’s protest outside her house. However, her silence sent a strong message to those in power in Pakistan that perhaps it’s time to finally learn a lesson and stop targeting innocents to settle their political scores.


Rehman Anwer



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