Sri Lanka has canceled Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s planned address to the parliament next week due to his “tight schedule” amid claims that the visit is ill-timed because of rising coronavirus cases across the country.
Khan is due to arrive in the capital Colombo on Feb. 23 for talks with key government officials and party leaders. He was expected to address the legislature the following day.
However, Shan Wijetunge, the parliament’s head of communications, told Arab News on Wednesday that the address has been canceled because of the visiting premier’s demanding schedule.
During his two-day visit, Khan will meet with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, as well as attending an investors’ forum on Feb. 24.
Khan would have been the third Pakistani head of state to address the Sri Lankan parliament, after former President Gen. Mohammed Ayub Khan (1963) and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1975).
Former Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru also addressed the parliament in 1962, followed by British PM Margaret Thatcher in 1985. More recently, Indian leader Narendra Modi addressed the legislature in 2015.
Commenting on the canceled address, Pakistan High Commission press attache Kalsoom Quaiser Jilani told Arab News that the Sri Lankan government had arranged the entire visit.