Will matrimony, for a third time, help Imran Khan's political career?

The much-married Imran Khan is considering matrimony, for a third time. Rumours that he is already married to his spiritual mentor and faith healer Bushra Maneka (mother of five who used to be married to a customs official in Islamabad), have been denied by her and her children, who are confused and angry that they have had to learn of their mother’s nuptials from the newspapers. 

Imran Khan has, of course, blamed it all on political rivals, the Sharif family. “For three days, I have been wondering have I looted a bank or money laundered billions in nation’s wealth or ordered a model-town-like killing spree or revealed state secrets to India? I have done none of these but discovered I have committed a bigger crime: Wanting to get married” he tweeted. His party, the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), conceded he had proposed to Bushra and when she accepts, it will be made public.

Bushra is around 50 and belongs to the influential Wattoo family in Punjab’s Pakpattan district. The Wattoo family has been in politics — more importantly Punjab politics — but has represented the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Love may have triumphed in Imran Khan’s life but it has fringe benefits. The alliance could help him forward his politics in a region dominated by Nawaz Sharif.

The fact is Imran Khan’s politics is not really going anywhere. He has been unable to break into Punjab although arguably the Sharif family is at its lowest point right now. He is seen as a puppet of the Pakistan Army, which is said to be manipulating him to weaken Nawaz Sharif. But, with the Sharifs caught in a web of corruption and litigation, and the Pakistan Army quick to strike but afraid to wound, Khan is in a sweet spot. If he can play his cards well and get enough seats in the lower house of Parliament to emerge as a kind of kingmaker, he could get to play a much bigger political role in the future if a coalition comes to power after the next elections.

Current Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is a bit of a non-starter. He was propelled centre stage after the Mossack Fonseka revelations, which forced Nawaz Sharif to resign after the Pakistan Supreme Court found he was “unfit” to be PM. His younger brother Shahbaz was expected to take over from him but it was Abbasi Nawaz who was named PM. Equally brutally, the Sharifs have had a family pow wow and have decided that after the elections, it is Shahbaz who will be the party’s choice for PM. Abbasi has already said that the Pakistan polls will be held on July 15.

Will matrimony help Imran Khan? Hard to say. One thing is clear. The Pakistan Army will certainly help him. After all that has been said, it might not be that easy for Imran Khan to join forces with Nawaz Sharif. So, Pakistan will continue to suffer political instability — and the only gainer will be the Army. But, isn’t that the plot anyway?

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