By Dean Nelson
South Asia Editor
The Daily Telegraph/ 27 Sep 2012
Claims of an affair between Hina Rabbani Khar, the 34-year-old glamorous foreign minister, and the 24-year-old scion of the country’s most powerful dynasty have fuelled feverish speculation and outrage in Pakistan since they were reported in a Bangladeshi tabloid earlier this week.
According to Blitz Weekly, the married foreign minister, who has two young children with her millionaire husband, and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the PPP co-chairman, want to marry and have been regularly talking on the telephone and sending one another cards.
The tabloid claimed President Zardari is firmly opposed to their alleged relationship and had sought details of their mobile telephone conversations to establish the facts.
As per Bangladeshi tabloid, The Blitz, Hina’s husband Firoze Gulzar had called up his wife, who is New York for the UN summit with Pakistan President Zardari, to seek clarification on the “scandal” being tossed around by the media. Tabloid says Hina and Bilawal appear to be on a collision course with their families over their desire to turn their love affair into marriage. The tabloid claims that Hina told her husband to send the link of the news story that he was referring to and Gulzar subsequently sent the same to his wife. When he called her up again, Hina reportedly asked him: “where did you get all of this rubbish stuff?” and cut the line.
However, Gulzar is said to have known about the secret relationship between his wife and Bilawal for a while now. He got suspicious when he realized that his wife was brining souvenirs for Bilawal on each of her foreign tours.
He also saw her spend long hours chatting on the internet with Bilawal. When he asked Hina about what was that made her spend long hours on the internet with Bilawal, his wife reportedly tried to convince him that she was discussing political and diplomatic issues with the president of PPP with the aim to enrich his knowledge.
The Blitz, which was the first to report the story, claims that Feorze was not convinced and tried to argue with Hina, to which she turned furious and warned him that she would leave him if he doesn’t change his attitude.
The seeds of the distrust between Hina and Gulzar were sown after Hina caught him having extra-marital affair with a female staffer in one of his business ventures, The Blitz claimed, adding that Hina was terribly shocked at the betrayal of her husband and had attempted to commit suicide by taking sleeping pills.
Hina also crossed swords with Bilawal’s father Zardari after he came to know about the contents of the romantic greetings card sent by his foreign minister to his son.
The Blitz says that the President immediately called Hina and expressed anger for her extra-marital affairs with his ‘minor son’, but Hina was unperturbed and replied in a harsh tone that Zardari was being mean and asked him to refrain from interfering in her personal affairs”.
When Bilawal came to know about his father’s rudeness towards his lady love, he threatened to leave the post of the chairman of PPP and leave the country by the end of the year. Hina would also resign by then and marry Bilawal, the report added.
The paper cited “western intelligence agencies” as the source of details of messages the ‘couple’ had sent each other.
Hina Rabbani Khar and her husband have dismissed the claims as “reprehensible” and “trash”, but they have been reported widely in Pakistan where they spawned conspiracy theories among Islamabad’s political classes.
Senior PPP figures on September 27 said they believed the claims were part of a plot by the country’s feared ISI agency to damage Rabbani Khar’s reputation because it blames her for her part in facilitating a UN investigation into thousands of missing people detained by the security forces.
One PPP official said that the ISI expects the United Nations’ Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to recommend senior army and intelligence officials be charged for their role and blame Rabbani Khar for allowing the delegation into the country.
“They are not happy with her,” the official said. “The UN mission received a cold reception but Hina was called in by the president to meet him and the army chief. She crossed some red line.”
The government has not officially commented on the allegations.
Ms Rabbani Khar, the daughter of a powerful Punjab landowner, has been the subject of rumours concerning her private life since she first became a minister in General Musharraf’s government in 2004.
There was speculation then that she might marry the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz, but instead she married businessman Firoze Gulzar. She later stood as a PPP candidate in the 2008 elections and was appointed as finance minister in the new PPP-led government. She won many admirers for her stylish clothes and designer bags during her visit to India in 2011 where the two countries made significant progress in improving their relationship.
Yellow Journalism & An Immoral and Unethical Internet Attack on Khar
By William Gomes
Yellow journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury has recently propagated falsehood against Hina Rabbani Khar. He claims that Weekly Blitz is a tabloid newspaper published in Bangladesh every Wednesday but in reality it is not available in the market.
Yellow journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury has cheated many people among them two women who came in public and flashed his criminal face.
Brenda West wrote “Choudhury operates a shady website called Jethro Conglomerate, for which a scam alert has been posted by an organization that regulates the business dealings of the commodities Choudhury sells. (In case you are curious or are impressed with Choudhury’s interest in things Jewish, Jethro is the Hebrew word for Choudhury’s preferred moniker, Shoaib.)
Choudhury states on the Jethro Conglomerates website that he represents a company called Noca. Noca itself does not seem legitimate. It is not licensed. It provides no information about who owns or runs the company. The representatives they do list could be of interest to law enforcement. The Noca site says it is located in Canada but it gives an unpublished Nevada phone number. There is an odor of mobster activity connected with this enterprise, as well as Choudhury’s involvement in it. As we shall see in Choudhury’s published resume, Choudhury worked closely with the indicted mobster, Aziz Mohammed Bhai, who fled Bangladesh in 2009 to avoid imprisonment for various charges, including murder.”
Brenda West wrote “In June 2011 Tass (firstname.lastname@example.org) spokeswoman Lora Potopova confirmed in an email and subsequent phone conversation with this reporter that the wire service never had a bureau in Bangladesh, and had no record of employ for Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury — as a stringer or otherwise. Potopova reported that her thorough search of all Tass branches found no trace of Choudhury or a Tass office in Bangladesh. “
Using the banner of media outlet Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is running his criminal business for years.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury has coined the falsehood. Weekly blitz is a part of a syndicate of Hindustan times. The propaganda was subsequently reported by Hindustan times and other India media
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury became successful in his plan when it was published in India and then he started lobbying with the friends in Bangladeshi media to get it reported in different media outlets.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is deliberately running this falsehood against Hina Rabbani Khar and Bilawal Bhutto to be discussed by international media to use that discussion for further criminal business.
William Nicholas Gomes
80/ B Bramon Chiron, Saydabad,
Cell: +88 019 7 444 0 666
E-mail:William [at] williamgomes.org,editorbd[at]gmail.com
“Mr Speaker, please stop this yellow taxi from leaving the House,” Muslim League MP Sheikh Rashid Ahmed called out, as the then prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, left her seat to go out of Parliament. Benazir, then in her first term as PM (1988-90) and clad in a yellow kamiz shalwar suit with her trademark white duppata over her head, did not bother to respond as she exited.
PPP workers were livid; they worshipped the very ground Benazir walked on, and called her ‘Bibi’ out of reverence. It is another story that later Rashid Ahmed was jailed for possession of unlicensed weapons. At least he was safe from diehard PPP supporters.
Earlier, during the election campaign, the Muslim League had resorted to a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against Benazir and her mother Nusrat, where their photographs were printed in newspapers in a crude cut-and-paste job. The man who had orchestrated that campaign was Hussain Haqqani, the former Pakistan ambassador to the US.
As coarse attempts are being made to defame foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar and the PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, it is the irresponsible social media that appears to be carrying on a systematic campaign to this end.
Contrarily, latest photographs showing Khar and President Asif Ali Zardari talking relaxedly at the UN General Assembly sessions speak louder than the tasteless stories being bruited around.
The real issue is not about the Bhuttos or Khars. It is that if you are young, beautiful and a high-profile female politician in Pakistan, you are a soft target for sick minds and their ‘dirty tricks’ that seek to damage your reputation. Social media helps turn malicious gossip into scandals that turn viral on the net. These stories, where no distinction is made between movie stars and politicians, sell internationally. There are even sites dedicated to “beautiful Pakistani female politicians”.
Young and glamorous women politicians in Pakistan have been hounded for years. If it is Khar today and Benazir in the past, ambassador Sherry Rehman, parliamentarian Kashmala Tariq, speaker of the National Assembly Fehmeda Mirza and several others continue to be mired in unwanted gossip. All of these women ignore the rumours and continue to have successful careers.
In fact, when Khar first came into the assembly, she refused to be put into a ‘zanana dabba’ or ‘special women’s compartment’. When asked by Newsline what she would do for women’s rights, an inexperienced Khar said, “My father got me elected from a general seat. In our country, both men and women have issues that need to be resolved. Neither have what you may consider basic rights—the right to clean drinking water, the right to enough water to irrigate their lands, the right to basic health and sanitation facilities, the right to educate themselves, the right to have access to electricity and roads. Let us please try to give them these rights and then we can talk about women’s rights and men’s rights.”
It is common sense that most voters who have reposed their faith in women leaders in the region are uneducated and illiterate. But at no time have they ever stooped low and spread vile canards about them. Never have they shown such inclination to gossip or scandal.
“In fact, it is this post-modern era, with its high-tech social media, controlled and consumed by the educated and the so-called liberals, that is responsible for targeting high-profile women, whether they are in politics or in other fields. You will not see an ordinary party worker in Pakistan ever discussing such trash. Whether Benazir Bhutto, Indira Gandhi or Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the majority of their supporters were illiterate but had more grace than the class that goes around as the ‘educated’ today,” says TV host and columnist Nusrat Javeed.
Recently, another very young politician, Iman Hazir Mazari, daughter of the well known Dr Shireen Mazari, left Imran Khan’s Tehreek e-Insaf. Amongst other reasons for her resignation is her continuous, abusive hounding in the social media. Mazari is barely 20.
“One thing I have put up with for the past six months is abuse and character assassination. My self-respect and principles are more important to me than a party that continues to attack me. Being called a ‘prostitute’, or hearing/reading insults regarding my late grandfather by PTI workers is unacceptable. Yes, I wear what I want and I live my personal life the way I want to—that is between me and myself; no one…will ever have a right to comment on it. I will never make any apologies for the way I choose to live my personal life,” she wrote on her blog.
The ‘story’ involving Khar and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was first planted in an obscure Bangladeshi publication. Needless to say, the merely dressed up gossip was handled in an unprofessional manner. No attempts were made to get the viewpoint of the subjects. The publication might have sold well, but in the process the publishers sacrificed and traduced all principles of journalism.
As expected, Indian publications and broadcast media picked the story up, as befits their obsession with Khar’s ‘glamorous looks’. In this case, the ‘glamour’ surrounding the gossip involving Khar and Bilawal was lapped up greedily, as both are highly saleable. It was the Indian media that went berserk over Khar’s looks, apparel and accessories when she visited New Delhi in July 2011.
However, in Pakistan itself, the report has been roundly rubbished. No newspaper or TV channel has touched it. They know fully that it is trash, and have treated it as such. The government so far has not even dignified it with a response. Khar has not only been the country’s youngest and first female foreign minister, but one of the successful ones at that. Her diplomacy and handling of her portfolio has been lauded in the corridors of power in various countries, whether Washington DC, Kabul or Berlin.
It is quite clear that these speculations started when Khar was in New York to represent Pakistan in the UN general assembly, and was designed to divert attention to her equation with Zardari, who is also there as head of state. It’s also significant that her visit as foreign minister comes at a very crucial point in Pakistan-US relations. Also, Khar has recently had a very successful trip to Berlin, and stole the thunder from her Indian counterpart in Islamabad during bilateral talks in early September.
On the eve of the general elections, political opponents know how such a scandal could damage Khar’s image in her conservative constituency. Pakistani foreign ministers have rarely returned to parliament, as they remain out of touch with voters due to constant travel. Khar had an advantage as her father, a seasoned parliamentarian, was doing much of the work at the ground level.