Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar does not mince her words when asked why she could not do more about the state of tourism in the country. “Give me a soft image of Pakistan and I will present it,” she said. “It is difficult to promote activities that I, myself, feel insecure attempting.”
Khar was talking about her passion for polo and mountaineering during a conversation with Omayr Aziz Saiyid on the third day of the 7th Karachi Literature Festival. She believed that we, as a nation, are oblivious to the reality of a diverse Pakistan. “There is tremendous potential here.”
The former foreign minister spoke candidly about her personal, professional and political life to a large crowd in the main garden of Beach Luxury hotel.
Did her upbringing help set the stage for her future as a politician and businesswoman? Khar agreed. “My upbringing had a huge role to play,” she said. “People in Pakistan are divided and there is an apparent disconnect between the urban and rural classes. Luckily, I got to spend all my vacations during in the village which was a true privilege,” she explained.
“In a rural setting, there is an apparent co-existence – you live and grow up with the people you work with,” she said. “Living in an urban setting, it becomes very difficult to imagine the lack of infrastructure if you haven’t experienced it first-hand. You get access to how under-privileged the majority of Pakistan is.”
She said that it is a general misconception that there is no demand for access to higher standards and better access to health, education and sanitation in rural settings.
When asked about her experience at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums), she said, “I’d give up my experience at Amherst for my experience at Lums.”
On regional security, she said, “We must internalise our responsibilities before we attempt to influence our neighbours. Let’s fix Balochistan first and then talk about Afghanistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2016.