My political ambitions led to divorce, admits Imran Khan

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The Independent Online

Imran Khan's nine-year marriage to Jemima Goldsmith has come to an end, the former Pakistani cricketer said yesterday. The couple have spent little time together since Mrs Khan returned to the UK last year with their two sons while Mr Khan remained in Pakistan pursuing his political career.

Imran Khan's nine-year marriage to Jemima Goldsmith has come to an end, the former Pakistani cricketer said yesterday. The couple have spent little time together since Mrs Khan returned to the UK last year with their two sons while Mr Khan remained in Pakistan pursuing his political career.

There were hints yesterday that the separation of the couple was attributed to the incompatibility of Mr Khan's political life in Pakistan with that of his wife in London. Mr Khan said: "I can confirm that Jemima and I are divorced. My home and future are in Pakistan.

"Whilst Jemima has tried her very best to adapt to life in Pakistan over the last nine years, my political life has made it particularly difficult for her. This was a mutual decision and was clearly very sad for both of us. We remain on very good terms and our children will always be our first priority."

The couple married in 1995, first with a service in Paris then in an Islamic ceremony in Lahore. To many observers they appeared an unlikely match. Mrs Khan was the 21-year-old daughter of the late billionaire Sir James Goldsmith and a fixture on the London party scene. Mr Khan, more famous for his cricketing exploits than his political ambitions, had acquired a reputation as an international Lothario.

Sita White, daughter of Lord White of Hanson, won a paternity suit claiming that Mr Khan was the father of her 12-year-old daughter, Tyrian. Ms White, 43, died last month.

The marriage of Imram and Jemima prompted an immediate transformation of their public personas. Mr Khan shed his playboy image to launch himself into the political arena, and his wife converted to Islam and swapped designer clothes for the shalwar kameez. As well as joining the campaign trail with her husband, addressing crowds of Muslim women in halting Urdu, she also devoted herself to raising their two sons Sulaiman, now seven, and Qasim, four.

Speculation began to mount over their relationship when Mrs Khan moved to the UK with the two children last year to begin a Master's degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Mr Khan remained 4,000 miles away at their home in Pakistan, working as political head of the Tehreek-e-Insaf Party.

Last December, Mrs Khan also took the unexpected step of denying in Lahore's Daily Times that her marriage was in trouble. "It is certainly not true to say that Imran and I are having difficulties in our marriage," she wrote. "This is a temporary arrangement and inshallah [God willing], I will be moving back to Pakistan once my studies are finished and after the building of our farmhouse outside Islamabad is complete.

"Imran and I have become accustomed to these spiteful rumours. That does not make them less hurtful for those around us and, in particular, our family."

Speculation restarted year when her husband failed to attend a star-studded party celebrating Mrs Khan's 30th birthday at the nightclub Annabel's in London.

After announcement of the pending divorce, Mr Khan's political colleagues hinted that the demise of the marriage had been in part due to the incompatibility of the two worlds.

"Imran is in Pakistan and he was sombre," said Akbar Babar, central information secretary of Mr Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf Party: "Imran is so committed to the children's hospital that he built in Lahore and it takes up a lot of his time. He is also building another hospital in Karachi. That's his passion and it takes a lot of his time. Jemima, coming from the West, was hoping for a normal family life but that wasn't possible because of his political commitments and charity work. That impeded her from settling down in Pakistan.

"Both feel very sad about this. He's concerned for the children, obviously. Most of the details have been amicably settled. For all of us, it's a shock and we're saddened."

Since Mr Khan won international acclaim for captaining Pakistan's cricket team during its World Cup victory in 1992, he has devoted himself to politics. Mrs Khan joined him on the political circuit during the 1997 elections in Pakistan. He failed to win a seat in the National Assembly until October 2002.

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