NEW DELHI: Ending almost a week of speculation, Pakistan on Thursday clarified that no foreign dignitary would be invited to Imran Khan’s swearing in as prime minister, scheduled for August 11.
Reports that Khan, whose Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) emerged as the largest party in the July 25 election, might invite SAARC leaders to the swearing-in had led to heated debates in India media on whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi should accept such an invitation. Though the PTI emerged as the largest party, it is a few seats short of an absolute majority, and talks are on to garner support from independents and others to form a coalition government.
Asserting that Imran Khan, in keeping with his campaign plank of austerity, had sought a simple ceremony at the Aiwan-e-Sadr (President's House), PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry, declared that ""Media speculation about international dignitaries attending PM oath ceremony are not correct. It has been decided that no foreign personalities will be invited to the ceremony - it will be a completely national event. Only a few close friends of Imran Khan will be invited. There will be no show of extravagance at the event." However, he added, "A few of Imran's friends are the only foreign nationals being invited to the event."
These reportedly include Indian actor Aamir Khan and former cricketers Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Navjot Singh Sidhu, though of them, only Sidhu—who described Khan as "a man of character", has officially accepted the invitation so far.
Earlier, responding speculation that Imran wanted to invite regional leaders to his swearing in like Prime Minister Narendra Modi had done after his win in 2014, Chaudhry had said that discussions were on with the foreign office on the possibility.
Expressing relief over the Pakistani decision, a former Indian diplomat said such an invitation would have put the Modi government "in a bit of a dilemma," because if he accepted, it would go down badly with his domestic constituency and policy of no talks unless terror ends. "But if he did not, Pakistan would paint it as Indian intransigence and refusal to accept the Pakistani offer of peace and friendship."