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Imran gets ready for second innings

Lahore, July 4: Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricketer and politician who announced the break-up of his marriage to Jemima Goldsmith two weeks ago, has admitted that he would like to find a new wife by next year.

In his first interview since disclosing his impending divorce, Imran told the Daily Telegraph of his great sadness at the end of his nine-year marriage to Jemima, describing their split as “tragic”. He said, however, that he was already thinking about looking for a second wife, saying: “It doesn’t look possible this year, but I’ll see if I’m able to find someone by my next birthday.”

Imran’s disclosure was made during a sometimes emotional hour-long interview at his home in Lahore, in which he spoke frankly about his split with Jemima, Pakistani politics and even the US “war on terror”.

Sitting alongside members of his family and friends in a lavishly decorated reception room where he once welcomed Diana, Princess of Wales, Imran at first appeared reluctant to discuss his private life.

“I don’t have to say more than what I said,” he said defensively, when the subject of his divorce was raised. As he looked out of the window towards the well-manicured lawn outside, Imran gradually became more forthcoming as he sought to explain the reasons for the split. “I guess it is because of the situation we both were in. You obviously cannot have an arrangement when one partner lives in one continent and the other lives in another continent,” he said. “It just cannot work that way.”

Jemima, 30, daughter of the late billionaire and founder of the Referendum party, James Goldsmith, travelled frequently during the couple’s marriage between Islamabad and London, where she was raised and retained many friends. Some friends of Imran have suggested she failed to adjust to life in Pakistan partly as she missed her family in London but also because she found it difficult to cope with the sub-continent’s weather.

Imran, who was once called the “the sexiest cricketer in the world” and retains his looks at the age of 51, dismissed such suggestions and insisted that his wife had tried her best to relocate. He admitted that his passion for Pakistani politics and deepening commitment to public life might have made it more difficult for Jemima to settle down.

He sipped on a glass of mango juice and said reflectively: “Maybe, if I had been doing something else, or had more time to travel in England or everywhere, it would have been different. But as I said, it all was just very difficult. So that’s all and it is very tragic.”

Wearing a white Pakistani salwar kameez — the traditional long shirt and baggy trousers — Imran added: “Splitting up is something that has a huge impact on your life. Especially because of the children, it is not easy at all. Well, the whole family split, you see. It is a big decision and it is not an easy decision at all.”

Imran became angry, however, when he is asked about the rumours that a third person — either in his life or that of Jemima — contributed to the divorce.

“This is utter nonsense. There is no involvement of any third person at all,” he said. “I’ve not seen any such report, but if anyone ever writes it, I will take them to court. It is so ridiculous. Even Jemima would do the same, if she is bracketed with a third person.”

As the conversation continued, a palmist who was sitting in the room, asked to read Imran’s palm. He began by telling the former cricketer he had been at his peak until the age of 31, and had suffered from the envy of unseen enemies for at least 10 years.

Further success, however, lay ahead, the palmist said, and he would be able to attain whatever he wanted very soon. To that Imran asked: “Tell me when I’m getting married next.” The palmist replied: “Sir, it could be either by the end of this year or just before your birthday next year.”

Imran, who was born on November 25, 1952, replied: “It doesn’t look possible this year, but I’ll see if can find someone by my next birthday.”

The day after Imran’s decision to divorce was announced, he went on a three-day hike with some of his closest friends in the Karakoram mountains, using the time to ponder his future.

Omar Farooq, one of those on the trek, said: “He is going through the process where he needs to discuss all his personal and political issues, right from the new project that he is initiating to the future of his children and all the things related to his personal life, including his marriage.” Last night, Jemima Khan declined to comment.

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