Amid growing speculations about Hina Rabbani Khar being removed as Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister’s House clarified late on Tuesday night that no such change was in the offing. Speculation about Ms. Khar’s removal from the key post began gaining currency since Sunday when Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani remarked that a new team would carry forward bilateral talks with India.
Speaking to reporters in Lahore on Sunday – soon after Mr. Zardari concluded his India visit – Mr. Gilani said a fresh team would carry forward bilateral talks to resolve all outstanding issues including Kashmir. He did not elaborate further on what he meant by a fresh team but this was enough grist to the rumour mills.
Explaining that statement in view of the various interpretations it spawned, the spokesman for the Prime Minister’s House said: "By 'new team', the Prime Minister meant the new Foreign Secretary and Designate High Commissioner to New Delhi Mr. Salman Bashir."
Earlier, The News had reported that there was speculation within the Foreign Office that Ms. Khar may be on her way out and given a new portfolio in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle that could take place either this week or the next. Her non-inclusion in the President’s delegation to India added to this speculation.
Since Ms. Khar is a recent entrant to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), her rapid elevation to one of the most high profile offices in Pakistan has caused considerable disgruntlement within the party; especially among the old-timers. Many of her colleagues in the PPP from south Punjab have apparently ganged up against her.
Ms. Khar was elevated to Foreign Minister just ahead of her India visit last year as it was generally felt that the crucial ministerial engagement in New Delhi should be between equals.
The speculations notwithstanding, Ms. Khar went about doing her job on Tuesday; including keeping her scheduled appointment with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah.