It has been over five years since my rather infamous marriage to the most celebrated playboy of Pakistan ended in 2015. So much has happened in my life since then – I have evolved as a person. Yet, every time I meet someone new, they want to know what went wrong in my brief marriage. I had thought that writing a voluminous book well over two years ago would end the discussion once and for all, but it is no surprise that for a country which hardly reads news articles, a book would be read and understood, especially in a foreign language. Frankly, I had no money left to have it translated into Urdu after a so-called ‘friend’ offered to complete the task, pocketed the £3,000 and vanished into thin air.
Another close friend demanded £12,000 upfront for the task. Perhaps a separate article is needed on the psychological damage left by friends who love you only when you are rich and famous.
Why does the public prefer their own theories over a book filled with facts?
It is not only the lack of understanding of the English language or the lazy attitude towards reading in Pakistani society which is to blame, but the readiness to assume that we know what happens in other people’s personal lives. We do this to our friends and family all the time. In fact, most weddings are a venue for gossip-mongers to share their vivid theories on the sacred union.
On many a wedding, I have had the misfortune to listen to evil whisperings in the row behind me about the bride and the groom.
The attack is usually directed more liberally at the bride. She is either too heavily made-up or not too pretty. Too decked up or the jewellery is too light.
You can never win the approval of the aunties and uncles of Pakistani society, no matter what you do. Similarly, nine times out of ten, in the event of a divorce it is assumed to be the woman’s fault. Of course, she should have been the one to handle the situation better. My mother often shook her head and gently suggested during my first marriage how I should “handle him smartly”.
I was compelled to point out that you can’t have a rational conversation with someone who is flinging objects at you. But of course, as the ideal is Seeta, one must think of the man as the god the proverbial ‘majazi khuda’ and be the epitome of the all-sacrificing wife.
In celebrity marriages, the whole world becomes your extended family, constantly scrutinising your every move. Immediately after the divorce, I read that new research from Marriage Foundation had found that celebrities are twice as likely to divorce as the rest of the public.
Lady Diana famously said in her interview with Martin Bashir that there was “three of us in the marriage.” I was taught in school that “three is considered a crowd.” By that definition, my high-profile marriage was a mob. There was more than one political party, the deep state and the media constantly attacking me.
I also had my then-husband’s family, his friends, and his rather long list of ex-partners on my case.
I could recognise the paid media troll from the jealous ex from the names that kept cropping up in my celebrity husband’s non-stop confessional statements to me. From a leading anchor associated with Pindi Boys labelling me a “honey trap” to the Sindhi ex with bad breath criticising me for my dupatta glued to my head, I was being hit left, right and centre. In trying to strike a balance between trying to show the world that my husband was now off-limits to other women and trying to support him privately through his many failings, I lost a sense of my own wellbeing.
It wasn’t until I wrote the book that I realised the agony I had been put through. I remembered how physically exhausted I was because I couldn’t sleep peacefully in a house which had never been my home. I remembered how confused I was throughout about why I was being attacked for being a wife, and why my husband would not put an end to it. I remembered how I could never do anything right. He would persuade me to accompany him and requested my nephew to join us in all our travels. But then, he would get angry when his own party would criticise me for accompanying my husband. He would send me off to other cities on his behalf but then tweet negatively about my visits. When I questioned him on his hypocrisy he would break down and literally cry in front of me. I realised that it had been a non-stop rollercoaster ride for me with no chance given to me to catch my breath. One minute he would be complimenting me for my articulation, the next he would show me emails of his own party workers criticising me. I just couldn’t win. Only at the very end was it that I found out that it was all being orchestrated by him. Perhaps we know in our hearts who the culprit is but in intimate relationships especially those we have embarked on ourselves we do not want to accept that we are in fact sleeping with the enemy.
Essentially it was not the celebrity status or the hard world of Pakistani politics but the simple fact that a woman is often the only punching bag a strong man gets. Abuse in the form of a bruise or a broken bone is not enough evidence for many a woman who is the victim. I had learnt from my first marriage where the abuse was physical & overt in front of three children that it was hard to get sympathy or support from our community. From my second marriage, I learnt that the worst kind of abuse is to be betrayed by the very man who a woman had put our trust in. A bruise fades relatively quicker while words can ring for years afterwards in your ears. They serve as triggers. Writing that wretched book wasn’t cathartic. It was a like scraping at a scab.
To be constantly asked to recount events is far from pleasant.
It is a constant reminder of how I was manipulated, intimidated and ripped apart by someone who I was trying my best to save. The worst thing was that I had no-one to turn to. When you are in the public eye, people forget that you are a human. You are constantly expected to be looking picture-perfect. Married to the most photographed man in Pakistan meant I had no one I could trust.
Who could I confide in? In keeping his secrets safe I was seriously affecting my own well-being.
Everything that went wrong in his political career was my fault. I was the scapegoat which he and his backers needed. I saw them drag my media past to demonise me. Everything that I had fought for in the long, lonely ten-year struggle after my first divorce I was meant to be apologetic for now.
Even a picture of a Quran recital in his room which was leaked by his own social media team was used as an excuse by the loud man to shout at me. A marriage, at the best of times, requires a lot of communication and honesty — but in a high profile marriage it is harder still as, for some celebrities, it is a box-ticking exercise to win the vote bank or to revive a flailing career. In many ways, my year-long marriage was very much an Instagram marriage arranged by the powers that be to achieve a bigger goal. In doing so, an unsuspecting woman with three innocent children were used as collateral. It left no broken bones or visible scars but now, when people ask me how I look so young and fresh these days, I have a very simple answer.
I’m happy now.