How Imran Khan went from a lothario snapped having sex by a pool to prime minister with his finger on the nuclear button
For a man who repeatedly insisted that he didn’t want to be seen as a sex symbol it was certainly a peculiar choice.
Posing for a photograph for, the then cricketer Imran Khan lounged in his Knightsbridge flat, with a painted tiger on the wall described by one visitor as “a bedroom of great expectations.”
The captain of the Pakistan Cricket team – a team that would go on to defeat England in 1992’s World Cup final – was already known as one of London’s most prolific playboys, one who over the years would be linked with a roll call of glamorous beauties stretching from Hollywood to the aristocracy.
Among them were Stephanie Beacham, Goldie Hawn, Kristiane Backer, Susannah Constantine and Marie Helvin – while he also counted no less than Princess Diana as a friend.
But then as Khan himself had said meeting women was chief among “the very decadent pleasures in life” which he enjoyed – and one that led to a bitter row over his paternity of a little girl.
Fast forward several decades however, and it is an entirely different image that Khan presents to the world.
Today Khan is not only the solemn-faced Prime Minister of the country whose cricketing team he once captained, but one with his finger on the nuclear button, and who only today issued a veiled nuclear threat to neighbouring India.
His wife, meanwhile – his third – is a burka-wearing Islamic mystic whose face her husband had never seen before their wedding last year.
Maybe the leopard hasn’t completely changed its spots as his second wife claimed he’d had affairs with a string of Bollywood actresses and has illegitimate children by four Indian women.
Born to an upper-middle class family in Lahore in 1952, Khan was the only son of a wealthy civil engineer but attended school in Worcester and then Oxford University.
It was here that his talent for cricket – he captained the college team and made his test cricket debut – was matched by a talent for attracting female attention.
Khan has always denied that he drank alcohol or engaged in any activities that may be considered inappropriate for a conservative Muslim, but there is no doubt that by the late seventies his burgeoning sporting profile was matched by a reputation for non-stop partying at some of London’s most glamorous nightclubs.
His preferred venue was Tramp, a hedonistic Mayfair nightspot that Khan frequented so often he referred to it as his “living room”.
‘His scent is very attractive to women’
A regular in the gossip columns, Marie Helvin – his friend and also his rumoured lover – testified to his magnetism. “Everyone falls for Imran,’ she said. “He has a scent that is very attractive to women.”
It proved to be the case for Sita White, daughter of Gordon (later Lord) White, who was co-founder of the international building materials company Hanson plc.
Heiress to her father’s multi-million pound fortune, she met Khan on the dance floor at Tramp and embarked on a relationship which would last, on and off, for the next six years and end in controversy when, in 1992, she bore a child, Tyrian Jade and claimed Khan was the father.
Khan’s response? To first ignore her claims and then deny them – although in 1997 a US judge ruled he was the father.
Another day, another heiress
By then Khan had long moved on to pastures new in the shapely form of Jemima Goldsmith, another heiress who would become his first wife.
The daughter of business tycoon Sir James Goldsmith, Jemima was just 21 to his 42 when they met in 1995, but the couple were engaged within weeks and duly married in a two-minute Islamic ceremony in Paris followed by a civil ceremony in London.
Swimming pool sex pics
Their honeymoon was more colourful – not in the least because photos of them making love by a swimming pool were circulated among British newspapers although never published.
Such was her devotion to her new husband that Jemima converted to Islam and the couple settled in Lahore – where Khan set about trying to shed his playboy reputation, emphasising his respect for Muslim culture.
After their marriage ended, in 2004, Khan was rumoured to have enjoyed a short dalliance with Elizabeth Hurley.
It was through Jemima – with whom he had two sons, Sulaiman and Qasim – that Khan became friendly with Princess Diana.
He later claimed that he had been asked by Diana to act as a “marriage broker” with heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan just three months before her 1997 death.
By then his political ambitions were in full swing.
In 1996, Khan founded his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf., although he did not win a seat until 2004, the year his marriage foundered.
Over the following years, with his own political star rising, Khan appeared to turn his back on domesticity until, in 2014 he married BBC presenter Reham Khan.
The biggest mistake of his life
The union lasted less than a year, with Khan calling their marriage the “biggest mistake” he had made – a sentiment no doubt fuelled by Khan’s decision to publish a tell-all book in which she made a number of lurid claims about her ex-husband, among them that he believes in black magic and had bedded Bollywood actresses and had children with four other women.
The startling revelations seem to have done little to dampen his native country’s enthusiasm for Khan, whose longstanding political ambitions reached their pinnacle last August when he became Pakistan’s 22nd Prime Minister.
He did so with a new wife by his side, this time a leading Islamic mystic by the name of Bushra Maneka, from whom Khan had sought spiritual guidance three years earlier.
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Khan did not see her face until after their wedding — although he had seen a photograph of her as a young woman. In public she remains veiled, while, in the traditional Muslim dress he now favours, Khan is the very image of a sober, conservative politician.
It is a world away from the young man who cut a swathe through London’s most beautiful women.
But then as Khan has frequently said: “I never claim to have led an angelic life.”