Hina Rabbani Khar is not being removed,speculations are groundless

A Foreign Office spokesperson told on Tuesday that the removal of Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar from her current post in an impending cabinet shuffle was "nothing but speculation and groundless to the core."

Hina Rabbani Khar met Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday in connection with the visit of Saudi Prince Abdul Aziz, amidst mounting speculation of an impending cabinet shuffle and a new portfolio for the country’s glamorous foreign minister, The News learnt. Sources in the PM House informed The News that when an earlier report of Khar's alleged removal from the ministry had arisen, Prime Minister Gilani had swiftly clarified that what he meant by a ‘fresh team’ for talks with India was Pakistan's new High Commissioner to India, former foreign secretary Salman Bashir and his entourage that will accompany him to New Delhi.

The rumour mills had gone into frenzy earlier in the week, with speculation continuing to swirl and tumble on Tuesday as the government engaged in a frantic exercise of damage control in a bid to temper Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani's earlier announcement in Lahore that a "fresh team" will deal with future bilateral ties with India. The News had hinted in an earlier report that speculation was rife that Hina Rabbani Khar was to be given a new portfolio in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle if such a ‘team’ emerged.

When asked why the foreign minister was not included in President Asif Ali Zardari's entourage during the latter’s visit to India over the weekend, a Foreign Office official said that it was a purely ‘private’ visit, and that the inclusion of the foreign minister would have made it too formal. "But it is not correct [to assume] that Ms Khar opposed Zardari's visit to India, in fact she was very supportive as the foreign minister, and insisted that he should meet with the Indian prime minister over lunch,” an official said. He went on to clarify, “She [even] put her foot down when there was opposition to the visit by some in the Foreign Office.”

On Tuesday in reaction to The News report, diplomatic sources went a few steps further and confided that Khar had annoyed the president by speaking out of turn during a meeting with the visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides in Lahore. A participant of the meeting told The News that they were shocked and almost breathless as Foreign Minister Khar, normally a model of composure, took on the president on the issue of Pakistan attending the Nato conference in Chicago this summer.

“This was one meeting where the issue of the US bounty on Hafiz Saeed did not surface but instead Nides raised the issue of Pakistan participating in the forthcoming Nato summit in Chicago. At this Zardari asked Nides that Nato should forward an invitation to Pakistan and then the government would study it and come to a decision,” a participant told The News.

At this point, after the president had spoken and given Pakistan's point of view, Hina Rabbani Khar forcefully argued that Pakistan was still awaiting recommendations from the joint house of parliament for guidelines which will decide the future of the US-Pak relationship. The foreign minister reiterated that only parliament could make decisions on important matters, including matters regarding US-Pakistan ties and Nato supply line resumption.

Hina Rabbani Khar's intervention, if she really did intervene, was nothing new and this policy of the government has been repeatedly stressed to all visiting foreign dignitaries as well as to the local media. In fact a day before at the Foreign Office, Khar had taken this line with Secretary Nides in an official meeting.

"Absolutely cr**p. Someone with an axe to grind is feeding the media wrong information about the foreign minister," said someone close to the minister. He said that in that particular meeting Zardari had turned towards Khar and asked for her views on a certain issue and that is when she spoke with her remarks directed at Nides.

"It is too early to even think about the Nato summit at this stage so there is no question of opposing Pakistan's participation", another official close to the foreign minister said.

The News report was also reflected in a PTI story, which ran, "Days after Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar contradicted President Asif Ali Zardari during a meeting with a visiting US diplomat, speculation is rife that her portfolio may be changed. The US delegation led by deputy secretary of state Thomas Nides was taken by surprise when Khar publicly contradicted the president during a meeting held at the Governor's House in Lahore on April 4, diplomatic sources told PTI.”

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.


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I'm journalist in Pakistan,And working in this field about 20 years.