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After being shunned by Biden and pressured by China, Imran Khan refused to attend US hosted Democracy Summit

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. (File Photo)

Pakistan has been trying to explain to the Biden administration that skipping the Democracy Summit does not mean that it has no interest in bilateral relations with the US or that it has done so under the pressure of the Chinese. While the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tried to explain to the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the National Security Advisor  Moeed Yusuf told the Pakistani TV channel Dunya TV on Thursday that Pakistan was told to submit a 3- minute recorded video message of the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in the US Democracy summit and not in the interactive session. Hence “we decided against participation this time”.

Watch Video : PM Khan was asked to submit a 3-minute recorded video, no interactive session 

Yusuf added that it was humiliating that Pakistan’s head of government was not allowed to participate in the interactive session by the US , in view of the fact that all other heads of states were allowed to address the summit in live sessions. When he was asked whether Pakistan’s non-participation could be attributed to China, Yusuf ducked the question and said that the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in touch with the Biden administration.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was invited to  President Joe Biden’s virtual Summit for Democracy held on December 9-10. But Pakistan took several days before taking the final decision as it not only huddled for  in-house consultations but also consulted China before releasing a vague statement by its foreign office, which said that Islamabad looked forward to engaging with the US on democracy “at an opportune time in the future.”

More than 100 nations, including India, have been invited to the two-day virtual summit, which began  on Thursday . Pakistan is still on the list but the official schedule of speakers does not mention Pakistani PM Imran Khan. The other problem was that the US President Joe Biden invited Taiwan, instead of  “iron brother” China at the summit. Lijiang Zhao, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, had tweeted that Pakistan had declined to attend the summit and was a “real iron brother.” The message was clear  that Pakistan declined the invitation in support of China, which has shown displeasure over Taiwan’s inclusion.

Last week, The Guardian had reported quoting the Pakistani foreign office source that “that Pakistan is not taking part in it, as China was not invited.”

According to Pakistani experts, the invitation was in effect an opening offered by the Biden administration to Pakistan but Imran Khan gave up the platform the summit offered. Last November, in a statement congratulating Biden for his election win, Pakistan’s Prime Minister  said that he looked forward to the Summit for Democracy and to working with the Biden administration but once Biden took the charge, Imran Khan  was yet to receive a phone call from Biden. 

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi confirmed to Express Tribune that during his conversation with the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, he requested not to put Pakistan in a difficult situation as the country wanted to move away from geo-politics to geo-economics but according to experts, its change of heart may have come too late.

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