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Rabbani tipped to be Paks new Foreign Minister

Islamabad: Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan`s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, is being widely tipped to be elevated as a full-fledged Foreign Minister ahead of crucial talks with India next month, official sources said on Friday.

Khar, 34, 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.

Insiders in Pakistan`s Foreign Office told PTI that Khar had emerged 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.

Other candidates vying for the position, including federal Ministers Sardar Aseff Ahmad Ali and Makhdoom Sahabuddin and National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza, were no longer considered strong contenders for the slot, the sources said.

The move to appoint a full-time minister for the Foreign Office has gained urgency as talks between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan are expected to be held next month. .

Khar`s elevation as a full-fledged Foreign Minister would suit the powerful military establishment, which shapes and guides foreign policy, as she is not perceived to be as independent-minded as Qureshi, the sources said.

Reports have said that Qureshi was dropped from the post of Foreign Minister due to pressure from the military establishment, and not the PPP`s top leadership, for adopting a hardline position in the case of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was arrested in Lahore in January after he shot and killed two Pakistani men.

Qureshi opposed efforts to free Davis even after the Pakistani military and the US had hammered out a secret arrangement to pave the way for Davis` release after the payment of "blood money" to the families of the dead men, the sources said.

In contrast, Khar is largely dependent even for day-to-day affairs on Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, who enjoys the trust of the military establishment, the sources said.

"The military would be content to have Bashir play a key role behind the scenes in foreign policy matters while Khar is projected as the public face of the Foreign Office," said a source.

Citing an instance, a Foreign Office insider said Foreign Secretary Bashir had to hurriedly script a few lines for Khar when she had to participate in a joint media interaction with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State for Resources and Management Thomas Nides on June 13.

Before being appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khar had served as the junior minister for economic affairs. She had served in a similar capacity in the regime of former dictator Musharraf.

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