The love of her life?

SHE SAID that she was doing it because she cared about democracy and human rights, because she cared about Pakistan and - perhaps most importantly - because her former husband asked her to.

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Published: Sat 15 Dec 2007, 11:05 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:55 PM

Whatever her motivation, no one can deny that Jemima Khan took an extraordinarily active part in the international protests against Pakistan's President Musharraf, who placed his nation under emergency rule and arrested political opponents - including Imran Khan - as his grip on power began to falter.

So the release of Imran from jail was both a huge relief and a personal triumph for the woman whom many had dismissed as a mere socialite, more interested in the catwalk than international diplomacy.

Even ordinary Pakistani families - who once viewed this glamorous heiress with suspicion, and sided with Imran over his marriage break-up - have spoken admiringly of her campaign.

For Jemima, fears for Imran's safety have now given way to genuine elation. She was one of the first people he contacted when he was set free, and their many conversations since then are said to be filled with loving gratitude towards the woman 20 years his junior, who has joined his side for this particular battle.

Certainly, Jemima's role in spearheading the 'Free Pakistan Movement' has cast an intriguing new light on her relationship with Imran. There has even been gossip that they may yet rekindle their extraordinary mismatch of a marriage.

'Oh, they are still on very close terms, there's no doubt about that,' said a confidante. 'Lady Annabel (Jemima's mother) adores Imran, too. She has always had a soft spot for him.' The source added: 'Jemima has been sending e-mails and texts to him; she has been the point of contact with the world outside Pakistan. 'I think that there are deep dynamics in play when it comes to this relationship. I don't believe that they are still in love, but it is certainly a relationship with a lot of love in it.'

Such affection is all the more extraordinary given the nature of the couple's separation. Immediately after their divorce in 2004, there was a period of around a year when they were scarcely in contact. 'When a marriage ends, there are a lot of emotions and if you keep very close it's not a healthy time, it is the time to give each other space to move on, to settle into a new life,' Imran said. 'Now, though, we are getting back to normal.' 'Normal' for the Khans now is a cordial new relationship which has seen them holiday together at least twice with their children Sulaiman, 11, and Kasim, eight, at the Goldsmith estate in Spain.

One of the family

At home in Britain, Imran is also still regarded as very much one of the Goldsmith family. When he is in England, he stays in the guest suite at Lady Annabel's house in Richmond, where he is joined by his two sons for sleep-overs.

Jemima will often join them all for lunch or dinner. Some in their circle joke that they are seeing more of each other now than they did when they were married - as for the last two years of the union, she was living in London and he in Pakistan, where his fledgling political career was taking up all of his time.

There are, though, very real stresses coming into play as the situation in Pakistan reaches boiling point. One long-time friend said that Jemima has 'never looked thinner', possibly because Imran's political campaign is giving her so much cause for anxiety.

Now out of prison, and with his hunger strike over, he is calling on all parties to boycott the forthcoming election.

He has said that he is not afraid to die and talks of turning his Justice Party into a 'street movement' against Musharraf. This is surely a dangerous course of action when dealing with a dictator who, even though he has now discarded his uniform, is backed by the military - particularly for Imran who remains the party's only elected representative and is considered troublesome enough to have spent several periods under house arrest.

'He believes that God will protect him,' Jemima has said.

Imran chooses to live modestly in a compound in the hills outside Lahore with no bodyguards. He enjoys his solitude and dines alone each night. The only visitors who are not invited on political business are his sons - and he is so excited when his little 'tigers' come to stay that he says he cannot sleep the night before.

Perhaps more intriguingly, there hasn't been a woman in his life since Jemima -- it would appear that politics has proved an extremely demanding mistress for this former womaniser. Whatever the case, at 55 Imran Khan is very far removed from the playboy cricketer of popular legend. In his day, he cut a swathe through well-bred young girls at nightclubs such as Annabel's and was never out of the gossip columns.

Susannah Constantine of TV's What Not To Wear fame was among his conquests, and he had fathered a child by Sita White, daughter of the billionaire Lord White - a girl named Tyrian, who now lives in Los Angeles.

When he met Jemima in 1994, there was barely a hint that his future might lie in politics and in charitable work. Their romance started in a nightclub and he apparently proposed marriage to her on her second date. She was at the time a university student; he was an international heart-throb with a reputation as a ladykiller. They were married the following year, but it was the death of Imran's mother that brought about the most profound change in his life, forcing a complete reassessment of his life and priorities that resulted in the foundation of his political party back in his homeland.

For Jemima, it was an extraordinary upheaval, and it was to her credit that, initially at least, she made every effort to fit in to this alien new life, learning to speak Urdu and converting to Islam - she had been raised as a Protestant even though her father's family were Jewish. And by the time of the country's 1997 elections, Jemima was living in a compound in Lahore with her newborn son, Sulaiman, as well as Imran's extended family, including a clutch of sisters and ten other children.

She was also taking her first hesitant steps as a political campaigner, joining Imran at a rally in Peshawar, and making her first speech in Urdu. The party did not win a single seat in that election, and only one in 2004.

Meanwhile, it became clear that the very fact that Imran had married a billionaire's daughter of Jewish extraction was to be used against him.

'Because of her Jewish blood, she was accused of being part of a Zionist conspiracy to take over Pakistan. I thought this was so absurd that I didn't even take it seriously, but it took a big toll on her,' Imran said. 'In the beginning the idea was that we would campaign together, but I had to pull her out of politics to shield her from it.

'That is when our problems began because we were spending time apart. That then exacerbated the problems of a cross-cultural marriage and she inevitably missed her friends, family and home more than she might have.'

Jemima started to return to London so that she could finish the degree she had started, and then decided to do a Masters in Middle East politics, which again meant spending time in London. In truth, she was relieved to be free of the constraints of her life as a political wife. 'I had to over-conform, and I had to make a double effort to be seen to do the right thing, because I was a foreigner with a Jewish background,' she later recalled.

Imran would spend three weeks of each month out of the house engaged in politics and charitable fund-raising. Small wonder, then, that his young wife became increasingly demoralised and lonely with the life. For the final two years of the marriage, Jemima was based in England, and when it became clear that she could not live in Pakistan any more, the couple called time on the marriage.

Imran believes that it was his political passion which ended the marriage, because his mission to bring democracy to the nation is non-negotiable. It was not, then, a difference of temperament or belief - for although they are both exceptionally strongwilled people, they have never, it seems, ceased to admire each other very deeply. Indeed, when her subsequent romance with Hugh Grant hit a rocky patch in 2005, there was a suggestion from Annabel's friends that Jemima might even go back to Imran - because they were kindred spirits, and 'still loved each other very much'.

Now that Hugh and Jemima's relationship is officially over, the speculation has renewed. A friend of the family says: 'Jemima is a serious young woman and she does like being taken seriously, so she has been in her element supporting him over the past few weeks. 'I am sure also that she feels a lot better disposed towards Imran after trying the alternative of Hugh Grant. That said, the relationship between them is certainly a complicated one.

'I would say that Imran's connection with Annabel is significant. She has a massive influence on Jemima still.

'Annabel approved of Imran so much more than Hugh and she has really stayed very loyal to him, like she did with Jimmy [Goldsmith].

'They have that idea of loyalty in that family, that you can have a mistress or whatever but that the relationship can still be worthwhile, and there may be something like that going on here between Jemima and Imran. I think that it is the case that she is never really going to fall in love with anyone else. There is something about Imran that is so irresistible to Jemima that she will never be truly available.'`

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