Islamabad, Jul 19: Hina Rabbani Khar today took oath as Pakistan's new Foreign Minister, becoming the youngest person and the first woman to be elevated to the key post ahead of crucial peace talks with India.
Acting on the advice of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, President Asif Ali Zardari elevated 34-year-old Khar as the Minister for Foreign Affairs. She was earlier the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
Khar was administered the oath of office at the Aiwan-e-Sadr or presidency by Acting President Farooq H Naik as President Zardari was away on a visit to Afghanistan. Senior officials and members of the federal cabinet and the diplomatic corps in Islamabad attended the oath-taking ceremony.
“Ms Khar has the distinction of being the youngest and first woman Foreign Minister of Pakistan,” said a brief statement issued by the Foreign Office.
She beat a record held by late former premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was appointed Foreign Minister at the age of 35.
Khar's first foreign engagement as a full-fledged minister will be to lead the Pakistani delegation to a meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum to be held in Bali, Indonesia, during July 22-23.
She is expected to have bilateral meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the ARF meeting.
“On return, she will proceed to India for the ministerial-level dialogue in the Pakistan-India resumed dialogue process with her Indian counterpart, Minister S M Krishna,” the Foreign Office statement said. Earlier reports had said that Khar was expected to be sworn after President Zardari returned from his day-long visit to Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Gilani advised the President to make Khar the Foreign Minister before leaving on a private visit to Britain yesterday.
Gilani met Khar at the Prime Minister's House before leaving for London and discussed her new role. Foreign Office strategists had urged the Presidency to set an earlier date for Khar's swearing-in so to avoid an impression that she was elevated only to remove a protocol hitch for her upcoming meeting with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Khar had emerged in recent weeks as a front-runner in the race for the slot of Foreign Minister, which has been vacant since previous incumbent Shah Mahmood Qureshi was removed during a cabinet reshuffle in February. She 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. PTI