Pakistan’s foreign minister has formally denied spiraling rumors that she has been having a long-term love affair with the son of her country’s president.
A Bangladesh tabloid, the Weekly Blitz, reported earlier in the week that Hina Rabbani Khar, the glamorous 35-year-old foreign minister of Pakistan, seeks to divorce her husband in order to marry 24-year-old Bilawal Bhutto, the son of President Asif Ali Zardari and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Khar and her husband, millionaire businessman Feroze Gulhar, have both characterized the story as “rubbish” and “reprehensible.”
Bilawal, who serves as co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP -- founded by his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto -- is widely expected to become the next leader of Pakistan.
The tabloid reported that Zardari is gravely concerned about the alleged affair since it could jeopardize his son’s political future.
The Blitz claimed that the information it received, from “secret Western intelligence” sources, also included a charge that Zardari was considering firing his foreign minister over the illicit affair.
While the Pakistani government has yet to officially comment on the scandal, the Daily Telegraph newspaper of Britain reported that some PPP figures suspect the rumor was planted by the country’s formidable Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI, spy agency as a means of damaging Khar’s reputation.
The ISI, in tandem with Pakistan's powerful military, have clashed with the civilian government in Islamabad over a number of issues ever since democracy was established in the country four years ago.
Reportedly, intelligence officials blame Khar for helping the U.N. pursue a probe over the disappearances of thousands of people who had been detained by Pakistan security forces over the years.
The United Nations’ Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances apparently seeks to bring senior Pakistani military officers and intelligence officials to justice over the missing people.
“They [the ISI and military] are not happy with[Khar],” the unnamed PPP official told the Telegraph.
“The U.N. 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.”
With her extraordinary beauty, stylishness and youth, Khar has been the subject of speculation and gossip for quite some time. She made a splash during her official visit to India last year.
However, adultery is a grave matter in Pakistan, a country where a powerful fundamental Islamic militancy movement has grown in recent decades. Extramarital relations are sometimes punishable by a prison sentence, leading to speculation that Islamic leaders may call for a "fatwa" against Khar.