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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minis­ter-in-waiting Imran Khan has invited Indian cricketers Kapil Dev, Sunil Gawaskar, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Bollywood star Aamir Khan to his oath-taking ceremony to be held later this month in Islamabad.

The piece of information was disclosed by PTI’s spokesperson and MNA-elect from Jhelum Fawad Chaudhry while talking to reporters after his meeting with Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and other judges of the Supreme Court. Chaudhry Faisal Hussain accompanied him.

Asked whether Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also among the guests being invited to attend the ceremony, the PTI spokesman explained that the party had asked the Foreign Office to apprise its leadership regarding extending invitation to the heads of states and foreign leaders of different countries especially in view of the paucity of time. “We are awaiting response of the Fore­ign Office,” said Mr Chaudhry.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Modi had called Mr Khan to congratulate him on his party’s victory in the general election and expressed the hope that Pakistan and India would work to open a new chapter in bilateral ties.

PTI spokesperson speaks about swearing-in event plans after meeting CJP

When asked about the meeting of the PTI’s MNA-elect with the CJP and other judges, Mr Chaudhry could only say by way of explanation that being a senior counsel of the apex court he could meet any judge and that he was also a student of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. He said the judges congratulated him over his victory in the general election.

Soon after realising that the PTI had achieved a comfortable position to form a government at the Centre, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, Mr Khan in his victory speech on July 26 expressed the hope of building better relations with India, stating that better relations between Pakistan and India would be “good for all of us”. He claimed that he had more friends in India than any other Pakistani leader had. He also called for resolution of core issues between the two countries, including the Kashmir dispute, for meaningful progress in ties. He said that if the Indian leadership was ready, Islamabad, too, was ready to improve ties with New Delhi.

Legendary Indian batsman Sunil Gawaskar used to describe Mr Khan as his younger brother and enjoyed a very cordial relationship with him. Mr Gawaskar is a player to whom Mr Khan — one of the fastest bowlers of his time — dismissed on a number of occasion in different test matches.

Likewise, Kapil Dev is one of the world class all-rounders among the group of four professional cricketers in the 1980s. Others were Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Sir Richard Hadley. Although they were arch-rivals professionally but outside the stadium they were good friends.

Indian superstars such as Amitabh Bachan and Aamir Khan as well as the late Princess of Wales Diana and other stars had attended Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital fund-raising ceremonies held in Pakistan as well as abroad.

Recently, the three famous Khans of Bollywood — Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan — had felicitated the cricketer-turned politician on his success and even expressed their desire to attend his oath-taking ceremony.

When asked whether the prime minister’s oath-taking ceremony will be held at Islamabad’s old Parade Ground where the 126-day sit-in was also staged, the PTI spokesman said Mr Khan had expressed this desire, also recalling that the late prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the only premier in Pakistan’s political history whose oath-taking ceremony was held in the open.

Mr Chaudhry added that the new government did not want confrontation or acrimony with any institution of the country.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2018