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Imran takes Hugh hit after US grilling

London, Sept. 29: More than a month after Imran Khan was grilled for three hours by immigration authorities at Washington's Dulles International Airport, the British media have highlighted the plight of Jemima Khan's ex-husband.

No doubt, interest in the former cricketer has been revived by the humiliation heaped on Britain's own Muslim leader, Yusuf Islam, the former pop singer Cat Stevens, whose plane was diverted and who was refused entry to the US.

As if the insult at Washington was not bad enough, Imran, who is nothing if not a proud Pathan, has also been forced to give a long interview to Hello! explaining circumstances surrounding the break-up of his nine-year marriage.

His interview is the cover story, with the magazine running a quote from Imran ' 'Jemima is a very attractive woman and I knew she would meet someone new' ' above his photograph taken in a blue kurta-pyjama.

One can only assume he was well paid for the interview, which also suggests he can no longer rely on his former wife's fortune bequeathed by her late billionaire father, James Goldsmith.

Today's Sun newspaper and yesterday's Evening Standard in London reported the former cricketer's experiences at the hands of American airport officials who either did not know about his celebrity status or had been tipped off by President Musharraf's regime, as some of Imran's friends allege, that he was a known trouble-maker and was vehemently opposed to President Bush's war against Iraq.

That Imran was taken aside and interrogated for three hours has been extensively reported both in Pakistan and in the ethnic press in Britain.

Unlike Yusuf Islam, Imran was at least allowed in.

He told a lunch organised for him by the Washington Policy Analysis group that this was the second time he has been treated in this manner on arrival in the US. On the previous occasion he was fingerprinted (nothing unusual here since all arrivals are), held back and asked a string of questions.

Imran, the sole member of his Justice Party in the National Assembly, failed to get a proper answer when he asked officials why he had been detained. The treatment was repeated on his last trip.

Asked if he thought a US senator landing in Karachi or Islamabad would be subjected to the same treatment to express Pakistan's resentment at the treatment of the country's most famous legislator, he answered: 'Not under those now running Pakistan'.

The only explanation he was given at the airport was that his name was being checked against certain lists. Airport officials routinely check Muslim names such as Imran or Khan although, at nearly 52, the former cricket captain is older than the profile of the typical terrorist drawn up by America's security agencies.

Imran's Hello! interview is also very revealing. Although Jemima has allowed herself to be photographed practically having sex with her new boyfriend, Hugh Grant, in public, Imran categorically states 'there was no infidelity in our marriage of nine years. It hurts when you hear these insinuations. No marriage would have ended in such an amicable way ' as ours did ' if a third party had been involved'.

In their marriage, they had spent too much time apart, he said, 'but the straw that broke the camel's back was when she was accused of being a student of Salman Rushdie in August 2002 simply because there was a Rushdie book included in her course. General Musharraf's party launched a campaign against her in the newspapers while I was away fighting for the survival of my party. She bore the brunt of this for five weeks and when I came back her spirit was broken'.

Imran denies he put his political career above marriage. 'Jemima married a romantic, an idealist, a man with big dreams. She did not marry a London socialite, some lounge lizard or man who lived simply to make money.'

He says that 'the chances are I would have had a successful marriage if I had married a Pakistani girl. But I might not have had the happiness I shared with Jemima'.

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