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Zardari 'profoundly grieved' by book linking Benazir, Imran

world Updated: Aug 20, 2009 19:20 IST

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and other members of the Bhutto family have been "profoundly grieved" by a new book that claims Benazir Bhutto had a college affair with former international cricketer Imran Khan, Pakistan high commissioner to Britain said on Thursday.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the envoy who is a close friend of the Bhutto family and was a confidant of the slain former Pakistani prime minister, said the book by Christopher Sandford - a biography of Imran Khan - does not give any evidence linking Benazir Bhutto and Khan during their Oxford University days.

"This baseless, scandalous story has pained me personally. Even more so, it has grieved profoundly the president, the Bhutto children and the family," Hasan told IANS as he arrived in London from Islamabad to face a welter of media queries.

"The author does not give any concrete evidence on which his insinuation rests. Whatever he has written is based on his wild imagination and interpretation of 'giggles and blushing' of girls when Imran is around and not the martyred Benazir Bhutto," said a furious Hasan, the local guardian to Bhutto's young Oxford-going son Bilawal.

In a separate media statement, Hasan, who had known Bhutto for nearly 35 years before her assassination in December 2007, said: "The former prime minister was like a younger sister to me and throughout my long association with her, no one could point a finger at her flawless character."

"She never had any affair with anyone and her marriage with President Asif Ali Zardari was arranged by the two families in keeping with the Pakistani traditions."

"This is nothing but the cheapest possible way for marketing the new biography of Imran Khan," Hasan added.

Author Sandford, who interviewed both Khan and his English ex-wife Jemima, claims a source told him that Bhutto was 21 and in her second year at Lady Margaret Hall college in 1975 when she became close to Khan.

A mutual acquaintance reportedly told Sandford that Bhutto had been "visibly impressed" by Khan, and that she might have been among the first to call him 'the Lion of Lahore'.

Sandford told the Daily Mail, "In any event, it seems fairly clear that, for at least a month or two, the couple were close. There was a lot of giggling and blushing whenever they appeared together in public."

"It also seems fair to say that the relationship was 'sexual', in the sense that it could only have existed between a man and a woman. The reason some supposed it went further was because, to quote one Oxford friend: 'Imran slept with everyone'," he added.

Khan, currently on holiday with his children, has not yet read the book touted as an official biography, but told the paper: "Yes, I was interviewed, but I know nothing about the rest of what has been written. So it is not official."

"It is absolute nonsense about any sexual relationship or my mother and an arranged marriage. We were friends - that's all," Khan added.