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Snubbing the opposition

Updated February 19, 2019

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THERE appears to be no end to the PTI’s bitter feelings for its political opponents and critics, a truth underscored by the government’s steadfast commitment not to invite PML-N and PPP leaders to official engagements during the state visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Government representatives spent the last few days vociferously defending the prime minister’s decision. While the government’s principal defence seems to be that prominent opposition leaders “don’t deserve” to be invited to official functions as they face corruption cases, justifications of various hues were offered — including the excuse that there was not enough space in the banquet halls to accommodate everyone.

It is an unfortunate reality that our political leaders, both the new and the experienced, lack the maturity to handle such events.

Read more: Govt flayed for not inviting opposition to crown prince’s reception

Not too long ago, during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to parliament, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif made a special effort to embarrass Imran Khan as he greeted the Chinese leader when he said, in Urdu, that perhaps Mr Khan should explain to Mr Jinping that his earlier scheduled visit to Pakistan was postponed due to the PTI sit-in.

Routine as it is, such tit-for-tat behaviour does not behove any prime minister — especially in the presence of world leaders and diplomatic delegations, as it lays bare our internal discord and disunity before the international community.

Prime Minister Khan should have set differences aside — even if it was just for this occasion — and fought against the impulse to settle political scores. Instead of fearing what impression such an invitation would give to his opponents, Mr Khan should have shifted his attention to what message would be sent to the world as it watched one of the most powerful leaders from the Middle East visit Pakistan.

It would serve the PTI well to remember that the visiting Saudi delegation were a guest of the state and not personal friends of Mr Khan. The state, which is represented by its elected representatives, should have displayed more tolerance.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2019