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Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's first woman foreign minister, back in key role in Shehbaz Sharif cabinet

Hina Rabbani Khar entered politics in Pakistan at 25 after a foreign education, surprisingly winning in her conservative and rural constituency.

April 20, 2022 / 09:58 AM IST
Hina Rabbani Khar was Pakistan's first woman and youngest foreign minister.

Hina Rabbani Khar was Pakistan's first woman and youngest foreign minister.

Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's first woman foreign minister in the last Pakistan Peoples Party government, was named junior FM in the newly formed Shehbaz Sharif cabinet.

Khar, who at 34 became Pakistan’s first and youngest woman to helm the key position back in 2011, had received celebrity treatment on her maiden visit to India that time with a consistent media frenzy around her lavish style and expensive accessories.

And in her brief two-year tenure as the foreign minister, the US-educated Khar had carved out a foreign policy that was perceived to improve relations with Pakistan’s neighbours India and Afghanistan.

Her return to the crucial deputy’s role, that is likely to see Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 33, take oath as the foreign minister in the next few days, has triggered significant chatter again. Sharif has not yet named the new foreign minister and announced 34 members so far.

She is just one of the five women ministers to be inducted in Sharif’s cabinet along with Marriyum Aurangzeb, Sherry Rehman, Shazia Marri and Aisha Ghaus Pasha.

Khar was a cabinet member in the government of General Pervez Musharraf and seamlessly transitioned to being a popular minister in President Asif Ali Zardari’s government a decade ago.

She entered politics at 25 after a foreign education surprisingly winning in her conservative and rural constituency. Coming from a wealthy, landowning family from southern Punjab in Pakistan, the scrutiny around Hina Rabbani Khar’s lineage, money and looks reached the peak during her India visit.

Her sophisticated clothes, Cavalli sunglasses and a $9,000 Hermes-made Birkin bag drew significant attention with casual sexism thrown around in headlines that time. She dismissed the scrutiny and had refused to change how she was in interviews back then.

Her comments on Kashmir in 2016 also became a talking point after she said how “conquering” the Indian union territory through war was not an option.

“I believe that Pakistan cannot conquer Kashmir through war and if we cannot do that, the option we are left with is dialogue, and dialogue can only proceed with a partner with which we have normal relations and a certain level of mutual trust,” she told a news channel in Pakistan. She has consistently batted for better ties with India.

She quit active politics after her two-year stint as foreign minister in 2013 but remained a public speaker. She returned to politics in 2018 and was elected on a reserved seat for women in the National Assembly in the 2018 election by the PPP.
Stella Dey
first published: Apr 20, 2022 09:41 am