New Delhi: Pakistan’s prime minister-designate Imran Khan has decided against inviting foreign leaders and celebrities to his oath-taking ceremony as he wants to keep the event simple, a media report said Thursday —seemingly putting a lid on speculation that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could be invited for the swearing-in.

The ceremony is slated for 11 August and speculation was rife that this could provide an opening for the two countries to thaw ties given the possible presence of Modi at the event.

This was based on news reports of Khan, 65, expressing a desire to invite the leaders from South Asia, including Modi, along with those from China and Turkey.

However, Khan has opted against a fancy ceremony, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported. And this came after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI’s) consultations with the Pakistan foreign office.

Khan’s PTI emerged as the single largest party in the elections held on 25 July.

“The PTI chairman has (since) directed to stage the oath-taking event with austerity," Dawn quoted PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry as saying.

“He will take his oath in a simple ceremony at Aiwan-e-Sadr (President House)" where President Mamnoon Hussain will administer the oath of the office, Chaudhury said.

“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," Chaudhury said, adding, “There will be no show of extravagance at the event."

However, exceptions will be made for some foreign friends of Khan, the newspaper quoted Chaudhury as saying, with media reports speculating that this could mean invites to Bollywood star Aamir Khan and Indian cricketers like Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavasker and Navjot Singh Sidhu would not be withdrawn.

A PTI report on Wednesday said Sidhu had accepted Khan’s invitation to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

Following his party’s victory in the 25 July elections, Khan has pledged to take austerity measures to save taxpayers’ money. He had announced that he would not move into the prime minister’s house and a final decision on the fate of the building would be decided by the party.

In 2014, Modi had invited South Asian heads of state or governments to his inauguration in New Delhi. The invitees had included then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The two sides had subsequently tried to open talks frozen since 2013 but the attempt failed, with Pakistan insisting on engaging Kashmiri separatists ahead of talks with Indian officials. Subsequent efforts to resume the dialogue also ran aground.

The prospects for engagement looked up when Modi met Sharif on the sidelines of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in November 2015. This was followed by a meeting of the national security advisors of the two countries in Bangkok, and Modi himself making a surprise stop over in Pakistan in December 2015 on his way from a visit to Russia. But this effort to normalise ties too failed when terrorists struck the Pathankot air force station in January 2016 within days of Modi’s visit.

The sentencing of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a Pakistani military court in April last year and frequent violations of a 2003 ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control, resulting in civilian casualties, has further soured relations between the neighbours.

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