The bag that worked
Not surprisingly, Hina Rabbani Khar has captured the popular imagination. The bag, the shades, the pearls and the chiffon. No news article about the Pak-India dialogue was complete without a reference to all of them. And while every major news outlet did precisely that on Wednesday, Thursday brought the bashing.
Why is the media fixated by the bling, and not the brawn, they asked? Khar-the-celebrity overshadowed Khar-the-politician, they said. The media should differentiate between stars and politicians, they recommended. Why the holier-than-thou attitude, I ask?
Besides the exchange of most-wanted terror lists and general accusations, no major breakthrough had been made in Pak-India relations after the Mumbai attacks. In fact, we have barely talked a couple of times a year since then. Hawks on either side of the border ‘predicted’ that there would be little progress this time around too. But then again, did we really need hawks to tell us that? Were we expecting Khar to wish the animosity away on her first India assignment?
That she is not the one calling the shots in foreign policy is no state secret. But that is not even the point. It is unrealistic to expect resolving issues with your neighbours while your own house is falling apart. Until our institutions cut themselves to size and try not usurping each other’s authority, peace in the neighbourhood will be a distant dream.
Meanwhile, the sheer lack of interaction and consistently bad press has made the world in large, and our neighbours in particular, view Pakistanis with suspicion. That, in itself, is a non-starter to a meaningful peace process.
Given the uncertainty at home and hostility abroad, what could Khar possibly achieve on her first major assignment? Humanise Pakistanis, at best. And she achieved that several times over, something our former older, wiser, more experienced foreign ministers were not able to achieve.
If it takes a fancy bag and pearls to help humanise a reviled people, what’s the fuss, I ask.
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