“I wanted to be invited for this dinner today, and I wanted to come, especially after I saw your pictures in the newspapers today”, said Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani to visiting foreign minister of Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar.To someone not a witness to the buzz, first her appointment and then her visit to India created, this statement may come across as an embarrassment but all the people who saw how Indian men went gaga over her pictures on front page of Indian newspapers would find in Jethmalani a lucky fan of Rabbani getting an audience with her.
While she was talk of the cyber town, newspapers did not do a great job either as coverage of her visit and appointment as foreign minister was limited to how she looks, what she wore, which brands she sported and repeated assertion of the fact that she is married. Admiring somebody for good looks and great dress sense is one thing but admiring just this aspect of a person with great intellect, would be a great injustice to that person and so Hina Rabbani Khar was also miffed by this and after reaching back Pakistan from her tour she expressed her displeasure over such comments to the Pak media.
This is not the first time that a woman politician has been judged on how she looks more than on how does she fare in politics. Detractors don’t shy away from putting up blown ups of a young candid Jayalalitha in itsy bitsy clothes as an actor to draw attention from her skills as a politician. In the past also women politicians from the subcontinent – Bhutto, Indira and Sheikh Haseena have been judged and criticized for their attributes as women and while analyzing their capabilities as national leaders, historians could not help but use a lens with a sexist filter! In case of Rabbani, this illogical and narrow view of their achievements takes the most disgusting turn when you find that the most searched terms for Hina Rabbani Khar on Google are: ‘scandal’ and ‘hot’. Masses can’t really be blamed beyond a certain extent for only noticing that she is beautiful but one can certainly expect national media to show some maturity and shed some light on what Rabbani thinks on important foreign policy matters for sure rather then coming up with the most exclusive pictures of her outfit of the day!
If we shift attention to the position she has been appointed at then I am sure we would find interesting information on what she thinks as a foreign minister and what is her take on India and Pak relations besides we would realize that she is just not beautiful but wise too. Diplomacy is not new to Hina, as she has worked with the same players albeit for economic cooperation during her stint as a minister with the economic affairs division in the past. Watching her talking in the interviews accessible online, one is bound to see truth in her argument that economic diplomacy is a key part of diplomacy overall to which she is no novice. She indeed is a welcome change for India for she looks forward to place Pakistan at a logical side of foreign policy decisions by choosing to engage with US on a strategic level then just as a player playing its part in the return of massive aids it receives. This would give Pakistan’s foreign policy a long-term perspective, something, which India can adjust to at a pace, it would relish. She also holds her nation, Pakistan in high esteem, as she made clear after ASEAN ministerial meeting at Bali that Pakistan’s role in the region is by no means inferior to India. Some foreign policy analysts may view it as the kind of noises she needs to make to keep military establishment happy but one should try to see the happy assertion in her statement and especially a sense of responsibility towards Pak’s stake in keeping the region stable and at peace. A stable, peaceful, secure about its self-image Pakistan would be a mature Pakistan we so look forward to deal with.
Hina Rabbani belongs to the new generation, a generation that is confident about itself and wants to put the past behind to explore the opportunities now available and make the best of them. We just need to know her piece of mind and plan our cards accordingly. To begin with her maiden visit as foreign minister wrapped up on a positive note and Indians for sure are looking forward to more.