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Take Your Best Shot

by Reham Khan


The backburner is no place for women’s rights.

The law minister of the Punjab has asked me to remain “noncontroversial” and refrain from making any film that features characters based on him or his party bosses. Otherwise, he has warned, he may commission a film based on my “past” that will make my life “difficult.”

The minister scandalously escaped justice after the brutal police killings of at least 14 Minhaj-ul-Quran activists in Lahore last year, and his response to the recent child-rape scandal in Kasur has been reprehensible. If he weren’t so blinded by his unearned self-regard, he would realize that someone like him or his bosses could never be featured, even peripherally, in a work like Janaan—an Urdu-language feature I am producing to promote a positive image of Pakistan.

So the threats on the national airwaves from a man who wears his misogyny and contempt for others on his sleeve surprise no one. What remains a source of endless bafflement and concern is that others accept and condone such rank sexism with their silence.

To be clear, I own my life and my decisions. I am proud of whatever I have been able to achieve and do not cower at the prospect of anyone dredging up my “past.” I have been through battle, many times over. I know how to defend myself. I know how to fight—and win. This isn’t about me. This is about the millions of Pakistani women, far less privileged than I, being told that their gender makes them fair game should they defy the quaint notions of abject domesticity cherished as virtue by small-minded clucks like the Punjab minister.

Society is unaware of how deep the rot goes. Even our educated circles lack gender sensitivity and are unaware of what is appropriate or politically correct. On Aug. 14, I participated in a women’s empowerment event in Karachi. The women speakers shared their daily frustrations and trials, they spoke of the gender bias in our language and media, but they still held out hope that one day women would not be punished for having their own dreams and paths because of their sex. The male host, who is a friend, regaled the audience with sexist verse and jokes.

Self-proclaimed liberals are among the worst offenders. Many of them on social media identify with the Pakistan Peoples Party—which gave the country its first woman prime minister, first woman speaker of the National Assembly, first woman foreign minister—and they routinely and garrulously express indignation over women being wronged in other parts of the world. Yet, when it comes to Pakistani women who do not share their worldview, their vicious, misogynistic attacks fly in the face of everything they claim to represent.

But is fairness to women really an issue when there are far bigger troubles? The daily spate of bad news—crime, lawlessness, energy and water crises, police brutality, injustice—has always pushed the nagging women’s “issue” to the backburner, where it is expected to brew quietly. Even with the so-called bigger issues, there is a disquieting numbness that has come over us. No one bats an eyelid when a self-declared “dacoit” wins the by-election in Haripur’s NA-19 constituency or when the prime minister says accusations of murder against the Punjab law minister are not an issue for law-enforcement agencies but their party’s “internal matter.” In such an age, even those who claim to be enlightened find easy distraction in the sad sport of taking women they judge to be errant down a peg or two.

I campaigned in Haripur at the behest of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf candidate, as I did in April for Karachi’s NA-246 by-election. In both cases, the aim was to show women they have nothing to fear by participating in the political process. But others, and not just the party’s political opponents, relayed another message by attacking me: If “Mrs. Imran Khan” can be mercilessly attacked, the less privileged better stay in line and think twice before daring to step up.

My husband and I have much in common—and not just our last name. I have made my own way, struggling to raise and educate my children. I abandoned all fear a long time ago. Imran didn’t inherit his political mantle; he built his own life. We both know what it is like to fight to make something out of nothing, against all odds. This is what brought us together. And this is why I am able to walk beside him, not behind him. How’s that for tabdeeli?

I support Imran Khan because I believe in his cause. The message we sent through our joint press appearance on Aug. 18 could not be clearer: If my campaigning for the PTI is being taken as some form of entitlement, the misperception must be set right. This is no surrender to the onslaught of sexist attacks. This was our decision and, given how I have been politicized, the correct one. All political parties, including the PTI, must practice what they preach and be the change they promise. This is only possible through brave and honest introspection.

I own my past and my present. I am privileged to have the support of my husband and children, and I am proud of the work that I am able to undertake with their encouragement and abiding faith. I neither have nor aspire to any party position, any government position or official protocol. Imran Khan and I represent a modern, progressive Pakistan. This is the first time that Pakistan has a wife of a political leader who is a working woman, who was a divorcee, who has been a single parent, who works in the media, and who has a voice and mind of her own.

This is what many people apparently cannot handle. That is their problem. I can handle whatever comes, the gratuitous attacks and the scurrilous smears. But the public approval accorded to such vitriol through silence is far more insidious. It is aimed at putting down all women. Fortunately, Pakistani women are battle-hardened. Those who think we will simply wither away, unseen and unheard, have another thing coming. That change is here. But are we ready for it?

Khan is a journalist and filmmaker. From our Aug. 29 – Sept. 5, 2015, issue.

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Maria August 29, 2015 - 1:56 pm

Bingo! Well said reham .. men in our society are quick in pounding upon women. Any woman who commits a mistakes_not that men do not_ is either ostracied or blackmailed by these patriarchs. I endorse your stance of standing by the decisions that you made . Many of our holier-than-thou men do not have guts to own their decisions and actions. Had it been so, justice would have prevailed and pakistan would not have suffered from the chronic problems which have turned pakistan into papistan.

Raheel Butt August 29, 2015 - 2:01 pm

Mrs. Khan Don’t complain if people are silent they have been asleep for a while… you need to walk on this road alone for some time , with dignity a time will come when woman empowerment will multiply in our society.

Farman Ali August 29, 2015 - 3:45 pm

The ‘message’ I am being left with by this article is quite simple and straight forward, vis-a-vis, ‘the stereotype culture’ against women’s social roles is a gigantic obstacle towards a progressive society. Nonetheless, no intention is being demonstrated to hang out the white flag to that mindset. Though the Efforts would be painstaking to have the red flag held high against it, nevertheless, the cause would continue unwavering.

qasim khan August 29, 2015 - 4:15 pm

Nice one!

hafsasiddique August 29, 2015 - 4:40 pm

This woman inducted to ruin great Imran Khan’s standing as Pakistan’s greatest son is suffering from many mental disorders including MULTIPLE PERSONALITY.

This article was not about Women’s Right…it was about Reham’s another cheap shot at portraying ‘worthy’ of anything…!

As for Pakistani women…first come to their level of dignity & hardwork & then preach them. A ‘Marriage Contract’ doesn’t ensure RESPECT.

Anyway, our hero Imran Khan said in his Valima interview how no one could bring disrespect to his name unless Allah wanted. Guess this was directed at you as Kaptaan already knew why you were ‘inducted’ into his life through a deep #SetUp.

May Allah protect my Kaptaan from all evil-eyes. Ameen.

Zakuta Jinn August 30, 2015 - 4:49 am

And the award for certified schizophrenic goes to …. @Hafffsa

IamPakistan August 29, 2015 - 5:52 pm


Pranjal August 29, 2015 - 8:55 pm

Respect from India. In solidarity against sexism of South Asia.

Alee yaqub August 29, 2015 - 8:57 pm

RehaM khan is the only one who work for Children nD women!!

Carol Anne Grayson August 29, 2015 - 9:29 pm

You seem to have an outdated view on tackling gender issues more rooted in middle class western feminism than grassroots local activism, disappointing. Though nothing about you is quite what is seems as your ex husband points out in documents released this week and which you have so far failed to address! Not much hope for gender equality if you are afraid to answer Dr Ijaz…

Raza August 29, 2015 - 9:34 pm

This Khan duo is all about self aggrandizement isn’t it? And why do they think they are beyond reproach? If she’s going to call Imran Khan’s politics progressive and modern, a lot of people are going to disagree with her. I think Imran Khan himself will disagree with it. Secondly, what makes her think she’s the harbinger of women rights in the country? In my career, I have personally come across at least a dozen working class, divorced, single mothers who work and raise children, working at least ten times as hard as Reham every single day. What’s with the deluded sense of superiority? Or is she just pretending to be victimized? Can’t tell.

Sojwal August 29, 2015 - 10:28 pm

I’m an Indian and reading this article has made me respect Mrs. Reham a lot. We all live in a society where sexist attacks on women are not uncommon. Many people cannot digest the fact that a woman alone can take care of herself, lead a respectable life, earn her own bread without being dependent on anyone else, raise her kids alone and since Reham falls in this very category, such misogynist and sexist attacks on her are not surprising. This happens in India, Pakistan and everywhere else but its up to people like us to stop being silent and take on such misogynists and show them how wrong they are. Us raising our voice might not change the way such people think but it may somehow make them feel watched and the fact that they can’t get away with any kind of bullshit.
An ambitious, strong, educated woman is what they fear and also despise so I urge the people of pakistan to not play into the hands of such misogynists and support women who make it to the top without attacking them personally.

MS Jan (@NaaLaiq) August 30, 2015 - 12:12 am

“I know how to fight—and win. This isn’t about me. This is about the millions of Pakistani women, far less privileged than I, being told that their gender makes them fair game should they defy the quaint notions of abject domesticity cherished as virtue by small-minded clucks like the Punjab minister”

The best sentence.

Hats off Reham…

Ajmal Khan August 30, 2015 - 12:34 am

It’s your cheap tactics to become Innocent, Being feeling proud of your Past, You should apologise & Regret on it, Is to cook pork Or To hug or twist with unknown is a Muslim Women Norms?? Instead of criticising others, Did you ask views of Imran,s sisters about you?? If you & Your Husbands are Ideal Or only couple on Earth Then Why you left Banigala when IK ex wife children came on visit?? You asked multiple time that You started politics on with full powers, you didn’t mention that I am doing this on candidate,s will??
What a cheap and Liar you are??? Do you think about this?? IK is well known U-Turn Master & Now you are an addition to it..
Plz don’t think Pakistani are fool Or never try to be over smart … Otherwise be courageous to Absorb Criticism.. Blame game doesn’t work ..

prof shaheena asif August 30, 2015 - 8:35 am

Well said Reham.you are so right..please don’t give up…

Shahid August 30, 2015 - 8:50 am

If you beg people for respect forget it you know you doing good why
You need a pat in he back

FOR PAKISTAN,IMRAN&WOMEN August 30, 2015 - 8:57 am

Pakistani women are highly educated, smart women who do not wish a woman like Reham to talk about their rights. She likes wearing expensive clothes every day, taking selfies, make use of any means that come her way brutally and does not have any humbleness in her.
She obviously has extreme narcissism and nothing else matters. So please do not use soft targets as women and children to create a perception that you care for them. If you have not done it in 40yrs of your life, it just means you are now doing for the camera and through it the public eye. Thank you, we believe in Imran Khan but not you at all.

Carol Anne Grayson August 30, 2015 - 2:45 pm

I respect the fight of BOTH sexes for the rights of women and have campaigned for years myself. However the first fight must be with yourself… the “misinformation” you are giving out is now very obvious and not only harmful to you but to others. How can Pakistan even think of you as an advocate for women and children unless you address this issue? Tales of a past life of poverty and drama just aren’t working only the naive and gullible are falling for that… Your ex husband’s documents show otherwise… and having helped people claim benefits in UK, I recognize the familiar documents… which are standardized letters sent out to sort out financial payments post separation… Your ex has now provided proof, where is your evidence… or are we supposed to take the word of a woman who can’t even remember where she studied? Women and children must be able to trust those working on their behalf… There is indeed work to be done treating women with respect… some men would reduce women to a pretty face ignoring all other negative aspects… that is misogyny!

M.Kamran August 31, 2015 - 11:47 am

Mr.Zakuta Jinn.Hiding behind a pseudo name and calling others schizophrenic speaks lot a more of ur own disorder than pointing it out in others.Looks like u’re in league of Ms.Reham who has successfully disclosed the true personality of Mr.Imran Khan.The Pakistani women and the true mothers of the nation are being brutally victimised by this Reham/ Imran duo with their lies.Its time for Pakistanis to get rid of both.

Muhammad Sameen (@muhammad_sameen) September 1, 2015 - 3:09 pm

Don’t stop writing truth. God Bless you!.

Gp65 September 2, 2015 - 8:23 am

I am a feminist myself and an Indian woman like you and I have little respect for Reham. Why? Because the reason she has been attacked us not her gender but her lies. She lied about her educational qualifications. She lied that her husband was guilty of domestic abuse. She lied that she brought up her kids without any support from her husband when in fact she continued to receive child support for her kids. In an interview with Farrah Hussrin she implied that she was completely unfamiliar with Pakistani cuidine until she started working in Pakistani areas as a Media person in 2006 yet she actually had completed high school in Pakistan, even in this article she misrepresents herself when she says ” This is the first time that Pakistan has a wife of a political leader who is a working woman, who was a divorcee, who has been a single parent, and who has a voice and mind of her own.”

All these things are also true about Shahbaz Sharif’s wife.

So I do not discount her because of having had a western lifestyle or eating pork – those things are immaterial. But repeatedly lying and misrepresenting oneself is quite pathetic and not worthy of respect.


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