Paternity claim overshadows Imran Khan's political debut


IMRAN KHAN yesterday promised a court battle against Ms Sita White, daughter of the late tycoon Lord Gordon White, after she filed a paternity suit seeking to prove the former cricket star fathered her four year old daughter.

"We have not received the notice from the court yet but we would reply whenever we get it," Imran said in Karachi during his election campaign at the head of his Tehrik-i-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party.

The cricketer turned politician said he was "ready" to fight the case in court.

Imran accused the former prime minister, Mr Nawaz Sharif his rival in a constituency in Lahore in the February 3rd parliamentary elections, of being behind what he called the "Sita episode". "I am very much convinced that this has been done through a plot," Imran alleged.

Leaders of Mr Shanks mainstream Pakistan Muslim League denied Imran's allegation.

Khan has enjoyed all his life but we cannot do much if he now wants to hide the facts. But he should not throw filth on us that is his personal matter," the PML's provincial information secretary, Mr Badar Channa, said.

Ijnran yesterday faced a battery of journalists, some of whom carried photocopies of the story on the suit filed by Ms White in the US on Monday.

"Yes I have known her for the last 10 years," Imran said, declining to go into further detail. "There is nothing more to talk about Sita White."

Ms White (35), said she took the legal step when Imran denied he was the father of her daughter and challenged her to bring the matter to the court to prove otherwise. Ms White, who lives with her daughter in Beverly Hills, California, filed the suit demanding that Imran provide a blood sample within 30 days. She is also seeking child support for an unspecified sum.

Imran is campaigning on an anti corruption platform that calls for respecting women's rights and Islamic law, including the public execution of those found to be corrupt.

Ms White claimed Imran had assured her that he would personally acknowledge his paternity to his daughter, Tyrian Jade, at some stage in the future. Instead, several days ago, he publicly denied that he was the father, she added.

She denied timing her suit to sabotage his campaign efforts, saying it would never have been an issue if he had not publicly denied his paternity and shamed her.

The pair had a relationship between 1987 and 1988, and continued seeing each other after it ended. Ms White said she had told Imran in October 1991 in Los Angeles that she wanted a child by him Imran was enthusiastic initially and expressed a hope that the child would be a boy, her attorney said. About four months into her pregnancy, Ms White learned through an ultra sonic test that she was carrying a girl and, the attorney said, Imran told her she should consider an abortion because a girl would "not be able to play cricket".

Mr Nazim Haji, a close aide of Imran, said: "The people of Pakistan are not a bunch of fools who would believe in misinformation and mud slinging campaign launched by the opposition against our leader. They [the PML] are instigating Sita White. It is part of a conspiracy against our party and Imran Khan."

Imran married Ms Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of wealthy Anglo French financier Sir James Goldsmith, who is Jewish, in 1995. Jemima, a convert to Islam, gave birth to a son last year.

Imran said he had known White for 10 years and his lawyers would deal with any legal action she might take when notified.

"The timing of the issue of Sita White clearly shows that a money game is being played," he added. "This is a plot."

Last year Imran was sued by England cricketers Ian Botham and Allan Lamb, who claimed he had libelled them in an interview with India Today magazine. After a high profile court hearing the two England players lost the case.

A newcomer to politics, Imran predicted that his nine month old party, Tehrik i Insaaf, would emerge as the "second force" in Pakistani politics after the elections. He said that the Pakistan People s Party (PPP) of the ousted prime minister, Ms Benazir Bhutto, was unlikely to contest the polls.