Diana's Pakistani beau returns to UK

Nov 30, -0001
* Back in Britain after escaping the 'Diana Witch Hunt', the man who almost married her reveals the real reason their affair was doomed, reports the Daily Mail

LONDON: Every day as he climbs into his elderly BMW and makes the 40-minute drive to the hospital where he works as an NHS heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan feels a contentment and professional satisfaction that he knows he came close to losing.

Although born and qualified as a doctor in Lahore, Hasnat Khan views Britain as his home. His friends are here. How ironic, then, that if his deep love affair with Princess Diana had ended in marriage as she wanted, he would have felt compelled to take her back to live in Pakistan.

For only there, he believed, could he have escaped the distractions and turmoil that followed her everywhere in the West, and where he could have been allowed to get on with the only other passion to rival the Princess -- his medical work.

Khan, who will be 50 next month, left England in October, 2007 just as the belated inquest into Diana's death in Paris in August 1997, was opening in London. He didn't give evidence, although a detailed statement which he made in 2004 to investigators was read out.

'I didn't want to become part of the witchhunt,' he said this week. 'I've read all the transcripts from the witnesses on the internet and, to me, it was more about delving into her private life than getting at the facts of her death. They didn't even call the paparazzi who were chasing her car. I'm glad I wasn't part of the circus.'

His absence meant that he did not become embroiled in the endless conspiracy theories about the Princess's death and the freneticism that swirled around the four-month-long proceedings.

The surgeon who used to have a flat in Chelsea and was often smuggled into Kensington Palace in the boot of butler Paul Burrell's car for secret assignations with the Princess, slipped quietly back into Britain in January and now lives in a modest flat in an unfashionable part of North London.

He is well away from the spotlight he hates so much, and has had no contact with the Princes William and Harry, or any of Diana's old acquaintances.

Khan, who met Diana while a young heart surgeon at the Royal Brompton Hospital in August, 1995, is now at Basildon Hospital, where he is one of a team of five heart and lung specialists at the £60 million Essex cardiothorasic centre.

'I love what I'm doing -- they're a great team and everyone is so enthusiastic,' he says. He

works purely for the NHS and does no private consultancy.

And, yes, there is a new woman in his life -- one that friends say he might even marry. He is keeping her identity secret, and who can blame him after all that has happened?

AFTER all, women may have found him attractive but he has not had too much luck with them. In 2006 he entered into an arranged marriage, fixed up by his parents while he was still working in London.

Khan, then 47, had returned home to Pakistan for the union with a distant cousin, Hadia Sher Ali, the 29-year-old daughter of an Afghan noble. But the relationship was virtually over within months.

His family had hoped that this marriage would help put behind him the memories of his relationship with Diana.

A decade earlier, when Khan's businessman father, Abdul Rasheed Khan, had asked him about his future with the Princess, the burly surgeon replied that 'if it ever happened, it would be like a marriage from two different planets'.

But now, following his failed marriage, a friend wonders: 'Who could say that the arranged family marriage was any different?'

The truth is that Hasnat went through with it to make his parents happy and views the entire episode as a considerable mistake. It was totally uncharacteristic of a man whose friends know him to think things through carefully before he acts. That, of course, was why he couldn't marry Diana.

All these years later he hasn't changed his view that for any

marriage to Diana to have succeeded, they would have needed to live in Pakistan. However, he was not convinced that Diana would have adjusted to life there, any more than her friend Jemima Khan after she married glamorous politician and former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan.

Indeed, it was Hasnat himself who urged Diana to speak to Jemima to help her see the problems of living in Pakistan. If she had left Britain, Diana would have been far from her family, her friends and, most difficult of all, she would have found herself parted for long periods from her two sons.

'It was obvious that in London I could not have fitted into her life and she could not have fitted into mine,' Khan has told friends.

'If we'd lived in Pakistan, it would have been just as difficult, as she would have been wanting to come back every couple of weeks to see the boys. They were still very young and she was worried that she would be portrayed as an absentee mother.'

In fact, both William and Harry rather liked Hasnat and two years ago, when they organised a tenth anniversary memorial concert for their mother at Wembley Stadium, they sent him an invitation. He went to it, but kept in the background. Pointedly, however, out of respect for Diana, he decided not to accept their invitation to the thanksgiving service at the Guards Chapel.

His reason for not going -- as with other refuseniks in Diana's circle -- was the proposed presence of the Duchess of Cornwall -- the former Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles.

In the end, following much public criticism about the insensitivity of inviting the woman who was the 'third person' in Diana and Charles's marriage, she did not join the congregation.

These days, Khan is very much the same man that Princess Diana fell in love with. He still likes to go to his local pub, drinks pints of Guinness and smokes. He has put on a bit of weight.

He still chuckles over the occasion he took Diana to the Bram Stoker pub in South Kensington and she asked if she could order the drinks, something she had never done before.

It certainly amused Diana when he took her to another pub near Harefield Hospital, Uxbridge, where he was a senior registrar under the distinguished, Egyptian-born Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub. Its name: The Prince Of Wales. She thought that 'hilarious'.

But such innocent memories are just about the limit to which Khan will go in talking about what must have been a highly tumultuous and passionate affair with Diana.

He was decidedly uncomfortable having to reveal details of the relationship when being interviewed by former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens's officers investigating her death, and being asked questions about their sex life. Here, too, he disclosed only what he had to -- that their sex life was 'normal' and that she assiduously took the Pill -- a clear and important indication to the inquest that she could not have been pregnant with Dodi Fayed's child, a claim made by Dodi's father Mohamed Al Fayed.

Moreover, he only said that much because he was 'mad, mad as hell' when he learned that Diana had been seeing the Harrods owner's playboy son.

Diana's friends, of course, still believe that she was seeing Fayed only because she had come to realise that Hasnat would never marry her.




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