Sri Lanka cancels Imran Khan's planned address to its Parliament: Media reportsPTI | Colombo | Updated: 18-02-2021 12:45 IST | Created: 18-02-2021 12:25 IST
Sergeant-at-Arms of Parliament, Narendra Fernando said he has informed Parliament that the Pakistan Prime Minister's visit to Sri Lanka will go ahead as scheduled, the Colombo Gazette website reported on Wednesday.
Khan, who will be the first head of state to visit the country since the COVID-19 pandemic, is to hold talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena during the visit.
It is said that the speech to Parliament had been included in Khan's itinerary at the Pakistan government's request. However, it was later cancelled and Sri Lankan media gave various reasons for the cancellation of Khan's address, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported on Thursday.
The address was scheduled for February 24.
Dawn newspaper quoting Sri Lankan media reports that there were elements within the Sri Lankan government, who did not want the speech to take place as they feared that doing so could further harm ties with India, which have already been strained after the cancellation of a deal over the East Container Terminal in Colombo port, Dawn newspaper said.
It was expected that Khan would raise the Kashmir issue during his speech, which could have upset Delhi, it said. Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after New Delhi abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir''s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories in 2019.
Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its ''internal matter''. Another speculation doing the rounds is that the Sri Lankan government was concerned about Khan speaking about the rights of Muslims in Sri Lanka, who have faced abuses at the hands of Buddhist majority, rising anti-Muslim sentiments, and biased government actions.
The Sri Lankan government had made compulsory cremation rule for those dying from COVID-19, enraging the Muslim community in the country. The government, however, earlier this month exempted the Muslims from cremation and allowed them to bury their dead after a global outcry over the issue.
Khan had welcomed the Sri Lankan government's decision. The Pakistan Prime Minister's visit, scheduled a month after Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's three-day visit to Colombo, will coincide with the 46th UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, where a new resolution on Sri Lanka is likely to be adopted. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed Sri Lanka's Parliament in 2015.
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