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SOURCE: EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE

Apart from a few close friends of Prime Minister-designate Imran Khan, no foreign leader will be invited for his swearing-in ceremony, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said on Thursday.

Khan will take oath in a simple ceremony at Aiwan-e-Sadr (President House), Chaudhry said.“It has been decided that no foreign personalities will be invited to the ceremony — it will be a completely national event. Only a few close friends of Imran Khan will be invited,” he said. There will be no show of extravagance, he added.

Khan has sent invitations to cricketers Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Bollywood actor Aamir Khan.

So far only Sidhu has publicly acknowledged and accepted his invite. Calling the Pakistan prime minister-in-waiting a “man of character”, Sidhu said sportsmen have the ability to build bridges and unite people. “It is (a) great honour, I accept the invitation. Men of genius are admired, men of power are feared, but men of character are trusted. Khan Sahab is a man of character. He can be trusted. Sportsmen build bridges, break barriers, unite people,” the former cricketer said.

Khan, in his victory speech after the results were announced, hoped relations with India would improve.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had telephoned Khan to congratulate him on his party’s win in the Pakistan general elections. PM Modi had hoped that “Pakistan and India will work to open a new chapter in bilateral ties”. Khan had also thanked Modi for his wishes and emphasised that disputes should be resolved through dialogue.

In 2014, the then prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif had travelled to New Delhi to attend PM Modi’s oath-taking ceremony. Modi had also made a brief stopover in Lahore to greet his counterpart on his birthday.

The relationship between the two countries has suffered after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016 and India’s surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The bilateral ties further deteriorated after the sentencing of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a military court in April last year.