Pakistan's foreign minister has been forced to deny that she is having an affair with Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the son of President Asif Ali Zardari.
Claims of an affair between Hina Rabbani Khar, a glamorous 34 year-old, 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 secretary, who has two young children with her millionaire husband, and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the Pakistan People's Party co-chairman, want to marry and have been regularly speaking on the telephone and sending one another cards.
The tabloid claimed that President Zardari was firmly opposed to their alleged relationship and had sought details of their mobile phone conversations to establish the facts.
The paper cited "western intelligence agencies" as the source of details of messages the "couple" had sent each other.
Rabbani Khar and her husband have dismissed the claims as "reprehensible" and "trash", but they have been reported widely in Pakistan and have spawned conspiracy theories among Islamabad's political classes.
Senior PPP figures said on Thursday that they believed the claims were part of a plot by the feared Inter-Service Intelligence agency to damage Rabbani Khar's reputation because it blames her for facilitating a UN investigation into thousands of missing people detained by the security forces.
One PPP official said that the ISI expected the United Nations' working group on enforced and involuntary disappearances to recommend senior army and intelligence officials be charged for their role.
"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.
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 last year where the two countries made significant progress in improving their relationship.