|Posted by Ammu Joseph|
August 2nd, 2011
Hina Rabbani Khar, the youngest and first woman to become Minister of Foreign/External Affairs of Pakistan, was just a week into her demanding new job when she travelled to India last week at the head of the Pakistani team participating in the recently resumed dialogue to promote peace between the two not-so-friendly neighbours.
Although her meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders even before the official talks began drew some attention, sections of the Indian media and the country’s online public seemed more interested in her looks, clothes and accessories than her contribution to the perilous peace process. Even columnists had their say: “India dances to tune of diplomacy’s item number” (an “item number” being the sexy dance that’s now all but mandatory in most Bollywood films) and “The Beauty Lie.” The Pakistani media noted that she had “won the hearts of Indian media,” as did the international press.
Khar was not amused at being branded a fashion icon, pointing out that a man in her place would not have received the same kind of media attention.
It could be argued that her apparent lack of relevant experience for the rather critical post she now holds makes her vulnerable to less than serious coverage. Even some of the more substantive articles on her suggest that she may not have what it takes to handle the responsibility that comes with the territory, especially at this particularly difficult time in Pakistan’s history. It may be significant that, although she was first elected in 2002, she is not mentioned in a 2009 article quoting a study evaluating Pakistan’s women MPs. The jury seems to be out on whether Khar is a rising star or a lightweight flash in the pan.
However, the chances are that even if she proves to be an effective foreign minister, her appearance will continue to draw inordinate attention. If seasoned, successful and powerful politicians like Hillary Clinton are not spared comments on their fashion sense, Khar may have to get used to being portrayed as a fashionista.