With US President-elect Jo Biden's inauguration just days away, there has been speculation and several media reports about whether certain world leaders will be attending the ceremony.
In Pakistan, rumours that former president Asif Ali Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had been invited were doing the rounds on social media while almost all television outlets quoted PPP sources as saying the father-son duo were invited and would be attending the inauguration.
However, setting the rumours to rest, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar told BBC Urdu that the former president and the PPP chairman “have not been invited to the inauguration and are not attending the ceremony”.
Similar news reports have also cropped up in other parts of the world. In India, Congress supporters claimed a few weeks ago that former prime minister Manmohan Singh was invited and would be attending – the news was later denied by Singh himself.
In the US, the media circulated a similar report about Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador forcing him to declare: “I don’t have an invitation, and I have decided not to leave (the country) much” during the pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic and the fear of violence has forced the organisers of the 2021 United States presidential inauguration to discourage foreign leaders from attending the ceremony.
Members of the Biden inauguration committee have indicated that they are not inviting foreign leaders to the Jan 20 ceremony and are also urging Americans to watch it from their homes.
In a recent statement, the committee has said that this year the celebration's size will be "extremely limited” while local authorities have asked people not to attend the ceremony.
“Our goals right now are to encourage Americans to participate virtually and to protect the District of Columbia from a repeat of the violent insurrection experienced at the Capitol and its grounds on Jan 6,” Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement.
The inauguration marks the start of a new presidency. It is held outside the Capitol building where the elected president and the vice president take the oath of office.
At the ceremony, Democratic leader Joe Biden will recite the presidential oath of office: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.”
Kamala Harris will also recite a similar oath as the new vice president.
After the oath, Biden will take his place as the 46th president and will formally occupy the White House later in the day, which will be his home for the next four years.
This year, more than 10,000 National Guard troops have been deployed in the US capital, with about 5,000 more available if requested — mainly because of the Jan 6 mob attack on the Capitol building.
Washington’s mayor has placed the capital city under a state of emergency since the attack following a warning from US intelligence agencies that Trump supporters have planned massive demonstrations across America this weekend.
Biden has told reporters: "I am not concerned about my safety, security, or the inauguration."
But the organisers and security officials are taking no chances.
Usually, the outgoing president also attends the ceremony and welcomes the new president at the White House, but Trump has already said he would not attend.
"To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the inauguration on Jan 20," Trump had tweeted on Friday.
Some of his supporters have even arranged a virtual "second inauguration" for Trump on the same day. More than 68,000 people have said on Facebook they will attend the online event to show their support for the outgoing president.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton joined her husband, former president Bill Clinton, at Trump’s inauguration — just two months after her election defeat and a bitter campaign against the Republican leader.
Only three presidents — John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson — have chosen to sit out their successor's inaugurations, and none in the last century.
The coronavirus disease, which continues to spread across America, has also forced organisers to cancel or curtail some events.
In the past, up to 200,000 tickets were distributed among the public, mostly by members of Congress and the Senate. But this year, only 1,000 tickets have been distributed so far.
Another novelty this year will be a “virtual parade,” instead of the "pass in review" ceremony from Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House where the new commander in chief inspects the troops.
After the “virtual parade,” the new president and the vice president and their spouses will be escorted to the White House by members of the military, including a band and drum corps.