But the media, particularly the TV, focused on the new young face – fashion-conscious and personable Hina Rabbani Khar (34), who was making her first major diplomatic foray. Appointed Pakistan’s youngest foreign minister less than a fortnight earlier, she was liberal with her interviews to the byte hungry and spoke of a mint – fresh generation at home that sees the bilateral ties through a different prism. Indian TV simply lapped up her comments. And the cameras were focused on her dress and on fashion touches that included a Hermes black Birkin handbag, a string of pearls and high black heeled shoes. The print media, at least a section, did not lag behind on going gaga. One page one report said Khar ‘proved to be a spot-the-brand delight for the fash frat’.
Among ‘some of her favourite things’ was ‘oversize Hermes black Birkin bag’ that has a price tag of Indian Rupees 17 lakh. Her ‘blue-tunic pants ensemble teamed up with pricy South Sea pearls glistened at her neck and ears and Roberto Cavalli shades covered her face’. Her expensive tastes were attributed to her belonging to one of the richest families of Pakistan but sadly there was no passing mention about the economic mess in which Pakistan finds today with the apex bank resigning, the chief economist quitting and the IMF withholding its doles and putting off the aid talks.
The daughter of Ghulam Noor Rabbani Khar and the niece of Ghulam Mustafa Khar must have relished the media brouhaha. Was she carried away by all the flattering, rather fawning, attention she received upon arriving in the ‘enemy’ country? One doesn’t know but what is public knowledge is that soon after landing in Delhi she met with separatist Kashmiri leaders, who undoubtedly have the same minders as the naturalised American citizen, Ghulam Nabi Fai. But the meeting was underplayed by her hosts and the media alike. And she was not asked whether her government would ever allow a visiting Indian minister to meet dissident leaders of Balochistan and representatives of the long-suppressed minority Hindus. Any how there was no need for such questions as Indian ministers on the few occasions they visited Pakistan did not go out of the protocol way.
The Young Minister said nothing to reassure India that Pakistan will seriously pursue the 26/11 trial, despite repeated promises to do so. Instead, she contemptuously told Indian channels that in India too court cases move at a snail’s pace. And in an interview she even declared that India’s case on 26/11 had become ‘outdated.’ She adroitly left no room for questioning why in Pakistan the 26/11 court case has hardly got off the ground. She was not asked why the three terrorists held for the 2009 attack on Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore were let off the hook. She must have heaved a sigh of relief as the TV cameras moved out of her hotel suit.
The glamour-struck Indian modern media that placed the accent on her youth and smartness did not care to ask how serious a politician Khar is, and which faction of Pakistan establishment she represents. Nor did it recall that in the 1970s Pakistan had a ‘smart’ politician of about her age as its foreign minister, who told his countrymen to be ready for ‘thousand-year’ war with India, and be ready to ‘eat grass’ but never give up their quest for the ‘Islamic bomb’.
The ‘mindset’ in Pakistan has changed, Khar told her interviewers and went on to equate the Samjhauta Express bomb blast with Mumbai’s 26/11. India did not hesitate to continue with investigation into the Samjhauta Express blast when the suspicion led to ‘Hindutva’ extremists. A serving colonel was arrested and is facing prosecution. If found guilty, he would be punished under the law, like any other accused in any case.
Now, can Pakistan confidently tell the world that it too has gone about the 26/11 case with the same thoroughness to bring to book the planners and executioners of the attack on Mumbai? A federal court in Chicago has unravelled the mystery with evidence from ‘persons’ picked up by American sleuths and nailed the ISI and its pampered Jihadi outfit, LeT. Well, if the Young Pakistan Minister still considers 26/11 as dated case, she knows whose language she is speaking. And she may have contributed to furthering the bitterness that besets the two countries. It cannot be wished away by any number of cosmetic layers.