Diana doctor's marriage on the rocks

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By AMIT ROY in London
  • Published 14.01.08
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London, Jan. 13: Hasnat Khan, the Pakistani heart surgeon whom Princess Diana was apparently desperate to marry, has separated from his wife, Hadia Sher Ali, 29, with whom he had an arranged marriage only 18 months ago.

In interviews today, Hasnat has revealed the split from his wife, a Pakistani bride found by his parents, though he declined to say whether media speculation about his past relationship with Diana had contributed to the break-up.

“I got married in May 2006 but separated recently – in November,” said Hasnat, who left Britain last year and is now staying with his elderly parents in Jhelum, a dusty two-hour drive from Islamabad.

“There were multiple reasons for the separation, not just one. I really cannot tell you what all these reasons were.”

Hasnat Khan

Hasnat made it clear he would not give evidence to the inquest into Diana’s death currently being held by a coroner unless legally required to do so.

“But I hope the inquest clarifies everything,” he said. “I really hope that everybody will be allowed to move forward.”

One of Diana’s friends, Rosa Monckton, wife of Dominic Lawson, former editor of The Sunday Telegraph, told the inquest that the princess had been “deeply upset and hurt” when Hasnat broke off his two-year relationship with her early in 1997.

“She was very much in love with him,” according to Monckton. “She hoped that they would be able to have a future together. She wanted to marry him.”

Diana met Hasnat in 1995 when visiting a friend at the Royal Brompton Hospital. According to Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell, the surgeon was smuggled in at night into the princess’s home in Kensington Palace in the boot of his car and out in the same manner at dawn – after breakfasting in bed.

She became obsessed with him, left messages for him at the hospital under the name “Dr Armani”, wore a long, black wig to fool photographers when meeting her lover in pubs and restaurants, started reading the Quran and watched Bollywood movies to “understand” Asian culture.

She also consulted priests about the possibility of conversion and marriage, and went to Pakistan to consult her friend, Jemima Khan, and meet Hasnat’s family.

Some have speculated that she took up Dodi Fayed on the rebound from Hasnat.

Like Imran Khan, Hasnat, too, dreams of building a hospital, although for children with heart defects, in Jhelum. He now spends much of his time in Malaysia where he heads a cardiac hospital.

In interviews today with The Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday, he spoke with affection about Diana.

“I found her a very normal person with great qualities,” he said. “I think she did great work all over the world not just for the UK but for everyone. That is very important.”

Hasnat, who has won high praise from commentators in Britain for his refusal to give a “kiss and tell” account of his affair with Diana, said the princess had enjoyed her visit to Pakistan.

“She also enjoyed the afternoon tea she had with my family (in Lahore),” he recalled. “And I think she very much liked the Asian family’s eccentric culture.”

Hasnat, who attended Diana’s funeral at Westminster in 1997, expressed disapproval of the fountain that has been built in Diana’s memory in London: “That little fountain doesn’t do her any justice. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had statues. They weren’t remembered by a little fountain.”

In November last year, Hasnat resigned as a consultant from Bart’s and the Royal London Hospitals after 12 years with the NHS. Although he claims he had always intended to return to Pakistan, he is relieved to be away from the intrusive British media.

“I am very lucky here,” he admitted. “You don’t get any papers. You don’t get any journalists. Here you can escape from it.”

He acknowledged he had put on weight. “The only problem with my new life is my waistline. I’m trying to go on a diet.”