ISLAMABAD - There was a lot of confusion on Thursday encompassing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan and in respect to whether the excursion was cancelled or postponed.
Private TV channels reported that the visit, planned from September 14 to 16, was deferred because of the continuous political pressures in Islamabad between the administration and protesters headed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PAT chief Tahirul Qadri.
According to a TV channel, National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser to the PM Sartaj Aziz said that the Chinese president’s visit won’t be cancelled; however it was a plausibility that it could be postponed.
In the meantime Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said on Twitter that the visit had been cancelled. The minister ‘congratulated’ Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri on cancellation of Chinese president visit and said people of Pakistan will not forgive them.
The news of the visit postponement came hours after a Foreign Office spokesperson said the visit was still “intact”.
Pakistan had suggested that the Chinese leader could land in Lahore where all meetings would be arranged but Beijing did not agree, it was reported.
The preparations for the visit had been on for months as several key energy and infrastructure projects were expected to be signed during the trip of Xi, who is also general secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China.
No officials were available to comment on the news.
On Wednesday, China had played down reports that Xi may call off his visit to Pakistan due to the political stalemate in the country, hoping that the crisis would be resolved through dialogue.
Xi was expected to begin his visit to the subcontinent with Pakistan, an ‘all-weather ally’ of China, followed by Sri Lanka and India in the third week of this month.
China has not yet officially announced the schedule for Xi’s South Asia visit.
Quoting sources, TV channels said the Chinese President did not get security clearance to continue with the scheduled tour.
According to the TV channels, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan had requested the government to vacate Red Zone of Islamabad ahead of the Chinese president’s visit.
The message of Chinese ambassador was conveyed to both the leaders of the protesting parties.
Xi’s security delegation was in Islamabad on Wednesday to review the situation in light of the protests, and was not satisfied with the arrangements.
Instead, it was suggested that the Chinese President should visit Lahore instead of Islamabad; however, his security team did not give clearance for that either.
President Xi’s visit was seen as crucial for Pakistan, during which a number of economic and defence deals were expected to be signed between the two countries.
Last month, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa also cancelled his visit to Pakistan in the wake of the country’s political situation.
The cancellation of Rajapaksa’s visit was seen as a major blow to the government at a time when the country was deep in the throes of political turmoil and uncertainty.
Reacting to the development, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said deferment of Chinese President’s visit was Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri’s revenge from nation.
Shahbaz said the Chinese President was going to bring investment worth billions of dollars to Pakistan during his visit. He said that there were 24 Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) to be signed during his visit.
He said the postponement of the visit was Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri’s biggest revenge from the nation.
Giving his reaction, Dr Tahirul Qadri said if the Chinese president postponed his visit then it is the government’s failure. “It is the responsibility of the government to provide security to the foreign delegates,” he said, while addressing the participants of sit-in atop his container.
He lamented that parliamentarians have been labelling the innocent participants of anti-government march as ‘terrorists’.
“One-sided tribunal” has given the judgment against Shahbaz Sharif which has not been disclosed, he said.
Former interior minister and PPP leader Rehman Malik said that postponement of Chinese President Xi’s visit to Pakistan is a big setback.
Talking to media in Karachi, Malik said PTI, PAT and the PML-N government were responsible for the setback.