Broken hearts over Imran's declaration

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The announcement that Pakistan's cricket hero, Imran Khan, will wed Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of the financier Sir James Goldsmith, had the country buzzing yesterday. Even some of Imran's close friends were stunned by the news, which the cricket star had kept a secret.

This surprise extended to his family. At first, the cricketer's father, contacted in Lahore, reportedly claimed his 42-year-old son and Ms Goldsmith, 21, married two months ago, after Ms Goldsmith had converted to Islam in London. Hours later he changed his story, saying his son and the millionaire's daughter had become engaged in March.

While many tabloids in Britain and other countries splashed photographs of Ms Goldsmith wearing glamorous dresses with revealing necklines, in the Pakistani press she appeared in a demure blouse, looking like a fresh-faced college girl instead of a dazzling socialite. Censors are adept at hand-painting jackets and high-collared dresses on photographs of women who bare too much.

Imran has proved as difficult to spot these past few days as his fast- paced deliveries once were on the cricket pitch. As soon as news of the engagement was released by the Goldsmith family in Europe, Imran is thought to have left Lahore, first for Islamabad, then Karachi. He is said to have flown to London yesterday to meet his fiance.

Over the past months, Imran's outspoken criticism of Western culture and his public espousal of Islamic values led many Pakistanis to believe the cricketer - considered the country's most popular man, and most eligible bachelor - would marry a local woman. "Imran has broken the hearts of Pakistanis," one paper lamented.

A favourite guessing game in Pakistan is whether Imran might enter politics. The latest twist is whether this marriage will tarnish his image as a champion of traditional Islamic and Pakistani values.

After leading Pakistan to its 1992 World Cup win, Imran retired from cricket to build a cancer hospital in memory of his mother, who died from the disease. While fund-raising, he attracts huge, adoring crowds.

Some acquaintances fear it may be difficult for his bride to fit in to the cloistered Islamic life in Pakistan. "After she's met a few of Imran's friends in Lahore and gone shopping, there isn't much to do. I'm afraid she'll get terribly bored and end up flying back to Europe three times a month," one Lahore society woman said.

Angela Lambert, page 19