Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan — Reuters (File Photo)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan on Wednesday abruptly cancelled a visit to India after it emerged British author Salman Rushdie would speak at the same conference.

Khan was scheduled to attend the India Today Conclave in New Delhi on Friday as a keynote speaker but pulled out, in a move likely to raise further fears among liberals about his brand of politics.

A statement from his party said “he could not even think of participating in any programme that included Salman Rushdie, who has caused immeasurable hurt to Muslims across the globe”.

Organisers announced on Tuesday that Rushdie would speak at the conference, two months after death threats forced him to withdraw from India's premier literature festival.

Rushdie's 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” is still banned in India and Pakistan for allegedly blaspheming Muslims.

The 64-year-old writer, who was born in Mumbai, spent a decade in hiding after Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for his death over the book.

Khan guided his country to a World Cup win in 1992, entered politics after founding his Movement for Justice Party in 1996.

In recent months, he has emerged as a credible political voice in Pakistan, unnerving his opponents by drawing crowds of more than 100,000 to rallies in which he has promised a “good tsunami” against injustice and corruption.

Women and liberals have raised concerns, however, about Khan's links with right-wing Islamic groups and his call for peace with the Taliban.

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Comments (50)

March 14, 2012 4:25 pm
good decision
March 14, 2012 4:27 pm
There is no "liberal" in this country who would be "feared" by this. Infact there is no soul in this country who doesn't abhor rushdie and each one of us pakistanis would have done what Imran has done. Full points to AFP for completely missing the point.
March 14, 2012 4:34 pm
Very good decision indeed .Our politicians should learn from him.
March 14, 2012 4:41 pm
This is completely a 'liberal' act, and I endorse it.
March 14, 2012 4:50 pm
One must respect freedom of speech
March 14, 2012 4:53 pm
It shows the spirit, Imran Khan has as a muslim
March 14, 2012 4:57 pm
HAHA Imran in your face .. You are such a looser and hypocrite :D I know you are doing it just to present your pious image.
March 14, 2012 4:59 pm
This decision has got nothing to do with 'his brand of politics' and being liberal or not, so please don't chracterise it as such while reporting. Rushdie's novel was in bad taste and this is accepted by Muslim's and non-Muslim's alike (check google/ youtube for a BBC documentary on the topic).
j. von hettlingen
March 14, 2012 5:05 pm
Is Imran Khan an idealist or an opportunist? Does he know what to do with his country? If yes, what?
Farid Ahmed
March 14, 2012 5:10 pm
I think it's never surprising to hear that Imran postpones his trip to India because of Salman Rushdie, even every politician would have done the same. Imran demonstrates vividly his conservative stance and rightful views over several national issues, so one can't imagine his retreat from ethical and autonomous grounds.
Nisar Bukhari
March 14, 2012 5:34 pm
Very good decision Imran, that was what is expected of you. Keep it up.
March 14, 2012 5:36 pm
Right decision not to share stage with Rushdie.'Satanic Verses' is hurtful to vast majority of Muslims, it crossed the threshold of decency.So what if liberals don't vote for him.Most of them arm chair liberals belonging to Gymkhana club.
Nisar Bukhari
March 14, 2012 5:38 pm
Totally agree with you on Imran Khan.
March 14, 2012 5:42 pm
well done...? who cares about these liberal fascists
March 14, 2012 6:15 pm
Im a Pakistani, i live in this country, and I'm a muslim. And I don't abhor Mr. Rushdie in the least. Please pause before making statements that you then project onto millions of people. Imran Khan did this because he's a politician. Well played sir.
March 14, 2012 6:21 pm
We are facing much larger political, social, economical, war on terror and poverty problems than who is liberal and who is conservative. We have seen both right wing and left wing politicians. What did they do? Now that we have a great leader in the form of KHAN, who at least will provide some hopes, why not avail this oppurtunity. Lets put aside our political divide and give this man a chance. Lets elect him not bacause he is the best but lets elect him bacuase he is the least worst of all.
March 14, 2012 6:37 pm
Which liberals?...these "liberals" represent upper class fascist elite, a very minor part of Pakistan's population, they are the aliens in pakistan.they care only about their own benefits....They even don't concern voting any party...their only God Fathers are their favorite dictators. How can Imran Khan share the same stage with Rushdi??..Rushdi has crossed every level of indecency....Well done iMRAN
Mark Richards
March 14, 2012 6:37 pm
I love this man.
Agha Ata
March 14, 2012 6:46 pm
Even a secular politician would refuse to attend a conference, if he is at a point on his way to be the leader of his country shortly, like Imran Khan, and where Salman is going to speak in the same conference and in a country where people can have a very contrary view of the situation harming their leader on his way to the top. The question is, was it shrewdly planned to test the new leader by India, a senile mind who sent invitations to the likely speakers, or just an honest mistake?
jibran zaman
March 14, 2012 6:51 pm
this is very good decison i must appricate mr khan
March 14, 2012 6:53 pm
Appreciated ....
March 14, 2012 6:58 pm
U guys can not survive in Pakistan without anti India sentiments well done imran......u r the product of same school as others
March 14, 2012 7:15 pm
Well done and right thing to do Imran.
March 14, 2012 7:16 pm
"Khan’s links with right-wing Islamic groups and his call for peace with the Taliban"???? What a slanderous (and incongruous)line! By the way, smart decision, Imran!
Tamil Arasan
March 14, 2012 7:21 pm
Who cares if Imran Khan doesn't attend...
Palma Tony
March 14, 2012 7:33 pm
I think Imran Khan should leave Pakistan also because in Pakistan, many have caused more harm to Islam than Sulman Rushdie. Why blame India or Sulman Rushdie then? You are a new face and should stay away from these double standards.
March 14, 2012 7:37 pm
Poor Imran, he is a politician now. Now, he can't do things which are guided by common-sense & logic. Now, he has to do things based on how the electorates are going to react.
March 14, 2012 8:18 pm
How many of you have read the Satanic Verses? If you haven't read it, how can you condemn it? Imran is a true politician, pandering to the emotions to gain votes.
March 14, 2012 8:28 pm
IT was a smart and safe decision on Imran's part. It shows he is learning the art of politics. One should understand the pulse of the situation and in our country the conservatives outnumber the so called liberals by a landslide. Also in most democratic nations there are leftist and rightist. He is a left centrist :-)
Bill Hicks
March 14, 2012 8:48 pm
On the contrary, it is a very well written book which anyone with good taste in literature would be able to appreciate; but of course you would have to read it yourself first, to have an opinion. The idea is simple, if something doesn't sound quite right in this day and time, how could you accept it as logical for past?
Ahmad Mustafa
March 14, 2012 8:51 pm
Well done imran khan.I am surprised at whosoever wrote this report.This isn't a liberal vs mullah debate.It's about what is right.
March 14, 2012 8:52 pm
Agree with Imran in total.
Muhammad Farooq, ON,
March 14, 2012 8:55 pm
Imran Khan did not go because Salman Rushdie is secular, liberal etc. His reason is clear; SR book created so much misunderstanding and hurt the feelings of one large community that numbers in billions. Secularism does not advocate to interfere with someone's belief that is what his book did. Secularism simply means non-intervention and not supporting any particular religious group while conducting the affairs of the state. So in my opinion, what IK did was the right thing to do.
March 14, 2012 9:03 pm
i bet none of the above posters have read anything by Rushdie yet they despise him so much. Why? They don't know, they just jump on the hate-bandwagon if someone states/writes things contrary to their beliefs. What petty fools.
Vinny, Chennai
March 14, 2012 10:06 pm
Very disappointed with Imran Khan. If this is the sort of politicians and national leaders Pakistan can breed, I feel sorry for your nation. Clearly Khan is an opportunist and hypocrite who embraced western ideals whenever it suited him. Now that he is nicknamed 'Taliban Khan' he seems to be living up to his image. More disappointing are the views of educated Pakistanis who leave no hope for a neutral, unbiased society anywhere in future. No open mind, no tolerance for worldly views, where can this pied piper lead Pakistan to?
Pankaj Patel(USA)
March 14, 2012 10:26 pm
I understand this is not my domain,but I read the fiction novel out of curiosity and I failed to understand what it in it that Muslims are so up set about it?especially in the subcontinent.Can any one educate me?
March 14, 2012 10:52 pm
Imran, good decision to prove your credentials to Pakistanis who need their leaders to demonstrate everyday that they are 'Muslims'. Indians will not miss you though. We love you, respect you as a cricketer but disagree with your eagerness to cater to Pakistani masses' psychological needs. So far I thought only Steve Waugh was good at mind games! Cheers Gautham
March 14, 2012 10:56 pm
Let me begin by saying that I'm not siding with any other political party, nor I'm validating the views of liberals or conservatives in Pakistan, and I most certainly am not endorsing Salman Rushdie. That being said, I always saw Imran Khan as a leader and not as a politician. However, this move was a political one to maintain his popularity amongst the Islamic parties. I would understand his prerogative if the conference was honouring Salam Rushdie, but as per the article, Salman Rushdie is only attending the conference as a speaker, and Imran Khan was suppose to be the key note speaker talking about his experiences as an international cricketer and on lessons for leaders from sport. Abandoning his plans to participate in the event will only attract negative publicity, and raised eyebrows in the international arena. Now, many blind advocates of Imran Khan will try to justify their stance by condemning Salman Rushdie’s work, and propel Imran Khan as a hardline leader for taking a stand against the enemies of Islam. In the short-run, this might make him popular, but in the long-run it will discredit his image internationally. Imran Khan needs to be stronger and smarter than an average politician, and be a leader we as Pakistanis want, and not a typical politician concerned with his popularity amongst the masses. He is the future for Pakistan, in power or not. His contributions are pervasively influential across Pakistan and abroad. I support his overall political agenda, but I disagree with him on this matter.
Imtiaz Faruqui
March 15, 2012 12:25 am
I am a liberal American Muslim, even if SALAM RUSH TO DIE, have written any thing against the Bible I would have considered that inappropriate, he has hurt the feelings of so many Muslims I think there are trouble makers in India who have invited him, as they know that India and Pakistan are heading towards friendship. Imran Khan did a very timely thing of refusing to go there. Imtiaz Faruqui USA
March 15, 2012 12:36 am
Had Imran participated in the Indian conference, he would have helped portray a tolerent image of Pakistanis. Unfortunately, he seems to be caterting to the right wing, and that's why, despite being an admirer of his bowling, I refused to attend his speech in New York...
afzal Khan
March 15, 2012 1:29 am
We are very proud of you for no attending the conference with Rushdie.!!!!!!!
March 15, 2012 3:44 am
I am willing to bet that all the people in this comment section speaking against Rushdie's book have never even read a page of all!!! Thats the level of ignorance in Pakistan nowadays...
March 15, 2012 5:11 am
Welldone Imran Khan!
March 15, 2012 10:09 am
Thank you very much Imran for not coming to India...Good Decision...
Kris Ramani
March 15, 2012 10:23 pm
Imran Khan is very immature person. He will never be a world leader if he behaves like this. In this open society world, one has to learn to live and let live. I would have appreciated him if he had bones to stand up and come to the stage and make his point. If Imran wants to be leader in Pakistan which ultimately will take him to world stage he will have to come out of his shell. Very childish behavior, just to please few radicals.
March 16, 2012 2:09 am
Suppose someone writes a book saying the earth is flat or Lincoln was a midget or Gandhi was the cruelest, who will agree? Will it change many minds? If a book does not make any sense, why ban it or punish the writer? An illogical book would change minds of ignorant only. Why worry about that? Why Fatava? Shouldn't a strong ideology easily withstand non-sense attacks? A logically sound attack, would survive and may even cause the ideology to improve. Fatava implies that followers cant be trusted to differentiate between right and wrong. If Allah is kind why not the followers? I would rather have an ideology survive on its own strength, not with threats and fear.
Wasif Ali
March 17, 2012 3:40 pm
Its right decision taken by the Imran Khan.......
March 20, 2012 3:11 am
"Secularism does not advocate to interfere with someone’s belief." Well said indeed. It is only bigotted religions like yours that do so!
March 20, 2012 3:32 pm
Some people in this world are destined for greatness and Imran Khan is no doubt one of them. keep it up !!
March 21, 2012 4:17 pm
1) Imran Khan attends the conference-gets bashed by all the conservatives and loses votes. 2) Imran Khan does not attend the conference-gets bashed by all the liberals and loses votes. 3) Liberal-Conservative Ratio = 1:4. No sane politician facing the same odds would have attended, regardless of his personal beliefs! Perhaps you people need a lesson in electoral strategy and politics...
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