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Pakistan set to get first woman and youngest foreign minister

world Updated: Jul 18, 2011 19:10 IST

Pakistan is all set to get its first woman and youngest foreign minister with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani recommending Hina Rabbani Khar's elevation as a full-fledged minister, days ahead of the crucial Indo-Pak foreign minister-level talks in New Delhi.

Gilani approved the "summary" or formal proposal for the appointment of Khar as the new foreign minister shortly before he leaves on a five-day private visit to Britain, official sources said.

Gilani forwarded the formal proposal to President Asif Ali Zardari for his final approval.

34-year-old Khar, who holds a degree in Business Management and a Masters in hospitality, is expected to take charge as soon as a notification is issued by the presidency, sources said. Incidentally, her elevation as a full-fledged foreign minister would suit the powerful military establishment, which shapes and guides Pakistan's foreign policy, as she is not perceived to be as independent-minded as her predecessor.

Previous incumbent Shah Mahmood Qureshi was removed during a cabinet reshuffle in February over his stand on the issue of immunity to the CIA contractor Raymond Davis, arrested earlier this year for killing two Pakistanis and subsequently released after payment of blood money.

The promotion of Khar, currently the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, was necessary to remove the protocol hitch for July 26-27 meeting with India's External Affairs minister S M Krishna.

The ministerial meeting is believed to have influenced the government's decision to go ahead with the elevation of Khar as a cabinet minister.

The decision to elevate Khar was made in view of her competency and recent interaction at the Foreign Office, sources at the Prime Minister's House told Express 24/7 news channel.

Khar is the daughter of veteran politician Malik Ghulam Noor Rabbani Khar and the niece of former Governor Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar.

She was a member of the PML-Q party during former military ruler Pervez Musharraf's regime and joined the ruling Pakistan People's Party ahead of the 2008 general election.

Her promotion comes at a time when Pakistan and US relations are under repeated strains even as Islamabad looks forward to a more pro-active role in Afghanistan once the US military pulls out.