One may fault political leader Imran Khan for his lack of political acumen or tying the marital knot for the second time a little too soon after the Peshawar massacre of school kids, but it is the vilification campaign against his new wife that gives one pause for thought. It appears that critics would rather have had Mr Khan wedded off to a pretty young thing like the many Dharna devotees than to a mature woman with her head firmly on her shoulders.

Of what business is it of anyone who Imran Khan chooses to marry? He has proven himself in the past capable of springing surprises and taking independent decisions as when he chose to marry Jemima Goldsmith who was in her twenties when he was pushing his forties. Jemima faced her fair share of barbs, primarily of being a Jewish agent in Pakistan, despite conforming and draping herself in yards of swishy dopattas and long sleeved shalwar kameez. Their subsequent divorce was amicable and life continued in a colourful fashion for both parties – Jemima’s in the open gaze of cameras and her ex-husband’s discreetly due to his burgeoning political career and avowed Islamic values. Now that he has decided to take the plunge, it seems that everyone from his sisters to strangers have to voice a dissenting opinion on the new bride.

In Pakistan, it is said that you don’t marry just the man, you also marry his family. A tad incestuous, but it is unfortunately a dictum widely adhered to in this part of the world. So having the bridegroom’s sisters say that they don’t know about this marriage, nor do they know Reham and nor do they wish to get to know her, is firing a warning shot across the bows even before the public nuptials. The bridegroom may be in his sixties, but sisters in law are going to be a pain anyway because naturally their approval has to be sought beforehand. It also has to be kept in mind that since they had announced during Dharna era that they were looking for a bride for their brother who could live happily ever after in ‘Naya Pakistan’, they were left without a leg to stand on and had to resort to creating a ruckus, welcoming the bride be damned.

Barely had the uproar from agitated sisters settled down that pictures of Reham Khan in short skirts and dresses from her past BBC shows started being shared amidst sniggers about how difficult it would be to respect such a woman as a political leader’s wife. Surely the length of a woman’s dress should not dictate the level of respect she is accorded. In other words, if she is sexy, then she’s asking for it? Talk about being misogynist.

A clip of her dancing the tango in a black dress for BBC went viral with disparaging comments about her leg show. What was not remarked upon were her nimble moves, her gorgeous dress and knockout confidence which lit up the video. It is not a piece of cake to work in London, deal with divorce, bring up kids as a single parent and yet not lose the radiant smile.

She appeared next in a sex shop brandishing a whip and leaning over the back of a female friend at a party. Deconstructing the pictures was a matter of seconds: naturally she was a pervert and a lesbian; so obvious, yaar.

A person’s private life before they become a public figure should be sacrosanct; whether they are in a disco or a mosque is irrelevant. If Reham is derided as a naughty party girl in London, what then of Khan Sahab who was prone to giving interviews to breathless female reporters in his tiger stuffed den, lying on his cheetah printed silk sheets, clad in his tiny shorts and plunging dressing gown? Or how about the live-in relationships he had with London’s It girls or the affairs with Indian actresses? If the man does it, he’s a stud; if a woman even gives the appearance of having a good time post-divorce, naturally she’s a slut.     

“Imran Khan to marry divorcee with three kids” crowed the headlines, conveniently glossing over that the bridegroom was also divorced with two kids. Why is divorce such a taboo for the woman? Just like Islam gives a woman the right to choose her husband, it also grants her the right to divorce him. Far better for her to leave the unhappy marriage and make a new life for herself. Why then the crass jokes about Reham being used goods and Khan Sahab deserving someone better? In any case, Imran Khan is arguably hardly the poster boy for the eligible bachelor tag, but then in Pakistan the man is always in his prime while the woman is in a race against time.

The latest in the slurs being lobbed at Reham centers on how dare she cook pork sausages for a TV program, with the insinuation that she ate them too. The video shows her learning how to cook and sell the sausages at a market fair with her at no point tasting or eating them, but then truth is not overprized in Pakistan. In case such arbiters of morality forget, the founder of the nation you are desperately trying to convert to Al Bakistan regularly enjoyed pork and a bottle of wine. For your convenience, you may put him in a sherwani and a tilted cap instead of his three piece suits from Saville Row, two toned polished shoes, a cigarette poking out from his lips and cuddling a dog in each arm, but that doesn’t change the reality. And he still fought for the rights of Muslims and got Pakistan, albeit moth eaten, where you are lording it.

When Reham mentioned her experience of domestic abuse to the leering TV anchor Mubashir Luqman as the reason why she was reluctant to remarry, her ex-husband crawled out of the woodwork to lambast her and insist that he was a jolly good fellow, just ask their friends in Hull if he ever hit his wife. Considering that domestic abuse being brushed under the carpet in Asian societies is the norm, looking for that friend who will testify to it is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Reham had the guts not to take the abuse lying down and leave which makes her different from so many long suffering women. If the ex-husband thinks she is a liar out to destroy him and win sympathy, he should sue her. Or shut up.        

The reason why Reham is proving to be a thorn in the flesh is that she does not conform to stereotype. The domestic abuse was horrible, but she says she is not scarred by it; she worked for the media in both Britain and Pakistan where one is always on show and she did not blink even once. Reham refuses to play the victim card, instead emerging as a courageous, feisty woman who knows what she wants in life. That is something that rubs people the wrong way who would rather have her crushed, defeated, sobbing a la the women in Pakistani dramas, thank you very much.

It is tough for many to accept that Imran Khan is off the marriage mart and his choice is a mother of three instead of a virginal, simpering bride. Since the easiest way to bring a woman down is to character assassinate her, hence Reham will have to bear with the slings and arrows of unguided moronic missiles. If Khan Sahab can reinvent himself from his playboy past into a paragon of virtue, one has no doubt that with his able guidance his wife will also succeed in proving herself as an able partner.

One of the best images from the wedding shoot is the one in which a laughing Reham is cuddling her happy young daughter while her benevolent husband, clad in his gold sun lit sherwani, looks on. A woman who does not hide away her child by another man at her marriage has to be commended. Reham is starting a new chapter in her life with her head held high, because she is not hiding the pages from her past life.