LAHORE: Imran Khan’s marriage to former BBC presenter Reham collapsed as he was facing a lot of pressure from his family and some party leaders, a source in the PTI leadership told The Nation last night. “Things had turned so bad that Imran was not even on speaking terms with his sisters. They did not attend the marriage ceremony and never invited the couple to visit their houses. They did not even vote in the NA-122 election."

“There were some people in the party who did not like the popularity that Reham was getting. They thought it was not in the interest of party and continuously poisoned Imran not to involve her in politics. She was ambitious and ran a good campaign in Haripur election on August 16. PTI lost the election and these people in the party blamed her for weak campaign."

“These PTI leaders did not want her to interfere in party’s affairs. They convinced Imran and he barred her from taking part in politics. She was however not deterred and came to PTI public meeting in Samanabad as a participant. Reham visited the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar and continued to make statements on social media. These leaders were disturbed and convinced Imran, who had also developed differences with her on other issues, to get rid of her in an amicable way. They had put Imran in a situation of no return,” the PTI source told The Nation.

“Among the many differences that had developed between the couple was Imran’s staying at Jemima’s house whenever he visited UK,” the source said. Another reason was that Imran had rejected Reham’s fears that his former wife Jemima was waging a smear campaign against her, a close associate of the PTI leader claimed last night. According to the source Khan dismissed her suspicion that Jemima was behind a “smear” campaign against her which included photographs of her wearing Western clothes. The claims emerged yesterday after the couple confirmed their separation in a sensational series of statements on social media.

Their divorce after just ten months of marriage was disclosed on the eve of today’s crucial Local Bodies elections and could affect their outcome. Senior PTI leaders fear it could cause damage to the party’s electoral prospects, while there are contrasting reports that his separation could impact female vote. An official statement by PTI spokesman Naeemul Haq announcing their divorce around noon yesterday was initially met with disbelief but the news was quickly confirmed by Reham herself in a post on the social media site Twitter. “We have decided to part ways and file for divorce,” she said.

Shortly after, Imran Khan made his own statement confirming their separation and pleading for privacy. “This is a painful time for me and Reham and our families. I would request everyone to respect our privacy,” he said. He defended his estranged wife against personal attacks and said he had the “greatest respect for Reham’s moral character and her passion to work for and help the underprivileged.” He rejected claims that she will receive 180 million rupees ($1.8m) and gold and diamond jewellery. “Reports and speculation about financial settlements are absolutely false and shameful,” he added.

Rumours of problems in their marriage surfaced last summer and appeared to culminate in a fierce denial by the PTI leader in September when he said he was “shocked by a TV channel making slanderous statements about my marriage. I strongly urge them to desist from such baseless statements.” His wife also rejected the claims and suggested ill-will by unnamed figures would not “stop Imran and I from the path we have chosen. We will both continue to work hard to deliver a Naya Pakistan together,” she said on September 23rd.

They were speaking after a series of articles in the British Daily Mail tabloid portrayed her as a Westernised party girl who had abandoned her Islamic culture to get to the top, including appearing in a video cooking forbidden pork sausages. In August the paper published affectionate photographs of Jemima Khan with two of sons from her marriage to the PTI leader with his sister Aleema. His ex-wife posted the pictures online with the caption ‘with phuphi’ suggesting a continuing warm relationship with Khan’s family, which was believed to have opposed his marriage to Reham.

Two weeks later the Mail carried an interview in which her ex-husband publicly accused her of making false domestic violence claims about him. She had used him 'like toilet paper to clean up her image' following the criticism of her Western lifestyle, he said. According to the paper, a cousin of Reham’s made contact days later and claimed Jemima Khan was behind the negative stories and was waging a smear campaign motivated by jealousy. “Jemima can't get her own man, that's why she doesn't want Imran's marriage to succeed. Reham and Imran are in love and very happy together,” the unnamed cousin said.

“Reham told Imran it was Jemima who was behind her ‘smear campaign’. Imran, whose two children live with Jemima rushed to the UK in September. He told a British newspaper and also tweeted that Jemima had nothing to do with the smearing campaign. That was the time when the differences surfaced. They still kept their happy married life image for the public, but things had started going wrong,” the source, a senior PTI leader who asked not to be named, told The Nation.

According to the source, their differences were exacerbated by their children from their previous relationships who felt uncomfortable with the new marriage. “They did not accept it from the core of their hearts. It was disturbing for both Imran and Reham,” the source added. Senior PTI leaders in Punjab told The Nation the couple had argued with increasing frequency in the following weeks in front of others.