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Bags, no taxes and a 'foreign ka minister'
August, 01st 2011

"You don't want the attention to focus on the frivolous," Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar told British newspaper Guardian on her return from India. "A guy in my place would never get such attention; nobody would be talking about his suit. I refuse to be apologetic about it; I will continue to be who I am," she said.

Former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha had worn a Brioni suit on one of his visits to the US, which w a s commented upon by the cognoscenti in New Delhi, probably the first time an Indian foreign minister wore such a high-end brand.

Mayawati, the UP chief minister, too is enamoured of her brown bags - not Prada, Fendi or Louis Vuitton - and has made sure they remain a permanent memory, occupying an important place in her numerous statues. But whatever the verdict might be regarding her state of probity, Mayawati has at least filed her income tax. Not for Hina Rabbani Khar, or as she is now known on Twitter, HRK.

The media attention that Khar attracted was largely because of the fact that her accessories were conspicuous by their expense and that it was so incongruous.

For anybody who knows anything about Pakistan, its economic travails are now legendary. While the country lives off international aid, its abject failure to tax its own citizens causes massive distortions, its tax-to-GDP ratio is barely 9%.

The World Bank is trying to get Pakistan to increase its tax revenues, with little effect. The US Congress is currently working on laws to compel Pakistan to tax its own people.

According to the Pakistani media, which obtained tax statements filed by Yousuf Gilani government's ministers, 25 of them, including finance minister Hafiz Sheikh and Khar, do not pay income tax. Khar, according to her nomination papers, said she's only paid agriculture tax, which in Pakistan as in India is ridiculously low. Khar and her former boss, finance minister Hafeez Sheikh, both paid agriculture tax well under Rs 10,000 - Sheikh around Rs 9,500 and Khar around 7,500.

A Pakistani media report listed Khar, Abida Hussain, Zulfiqar Khosa, Makhdum Mehmood, Wasim Akram and Inzimam-ul Haq as people wanted by the Lahore excise office for not paying excise duty on their luxurious cars. Khar reacted angrily to questions regarding the coverage of her fashion in Indian dailies and TV channels, saying, "You see, paparazzi are everywhere. Besides, you (media) should not do such acts."

In Pakistan, her profile has shot up, but not all of it is complimentary. For instance, social commentator Moni Mohsin tweeted, sarcastically calling Khar a "foreign ka minister". "If HRK is style acorn because of her Birkin, then I tau shd be full fudged oak tree with my Choos and my Mui Muis and my Dior vaghera, no?"

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