Former BBC journalist Reham Khan, whose marriage to cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan ended in just 10 months, has said she was told to only to make chapatis and not be seen outside the kitchen.
Imran Khan and Reham announced their decision to split on October 30 amid reports that he objected to her meddling in politics. There had been reports for months that their marriage was on the rocks.
Khan wed Reham after his first marriage with English heiress Jemima Goldsmith for nine years ended in divorce in June 2004.
Reham, a divorced mother of three, left a job on regional BBC news and moved to Pakistan in 2013.
“I was told specifically by a senior adviser: they basically wanted me to be in the kitchen, to be cooking chapatis and not to be seen ever again,” Reham told The Sunday Times.
Reham said as soon as she and her youngest daughter moved into Khan’s mansion in Bani Gala, on a hilltop overlooking Islamabad, she felt stifled. Her career was a constant problem, particularly when she became an “ambassador for street children” in Peshawar.
“There wasn’t any involvement, I never attended meetings or anything of the sort, but obviously there was insecurity,” she said.
Reham said she gave up her television show to avoid a conflict of interest and did not work for several months. But she still upset Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party early on when a journalist questioned her about problems in her first marriage.
Asked in an interview if she had been the victim of domestic abuse, she “didn’t want to lie” and said yes. “I answered as diplomatically as I could, being a politician’s wife,” she told the paper.
But the media storm that followed upset Khan’s party. Khan’s response was silence, she said.
“I was told not to defend myself, to let it die down,” she said. But the “attacks escalated”.
Although Khan knew about her past, she thinks it took its toll on him: “I don’t know if he was surprised by it, but he was affected by it.” She said guests to Khan’s home were never fed and he was surviving on “one chapati a day”.
Khan was not, she thinks, quite prepared for married bliss. “I tried to talk to him. I’m very talkative and I’m very chatty but, you know, you can’t exactly with Khan. You can’t discuss the colour of the curtains; you can only talk politics. You cannot exactly discuss Bollywood films with him. God knows I tried,” she said.
Reham said she plans to continue her work with street children in Pakistan and is producing two films.
“I have to make up for loss of income. I married a man who convinced me that he loved me, who looked lonely and who I thought had the same ideas about life and the same goals, but we were just too different,” she said.