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Miffed with Johnson’s lollypop offer of only a cricket match, sulking Imran Khan decides to postpone UK visit

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is feeling miffed with the UK (Photo: IANS)

Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to defer his visit to the United Kingdom scheduled  next month. On paper, the reason for staying put is disagreements over “agenda.” But Pakistani media dug out the real reason for Khan’s decision to work- from- home and not take the flight to London. The egoistic Khan was apparently miffed with Boris Johnson government’s chicken heartedness. The former captain, with stratospheric expectations of pageantry on his arrival at Heathrow, was apparently crestfallen after Johnson only to be with Khan during a Pakistan-England cricket match, and a ceremonial meeting in his honour.

On June 7, PM Johnson had buzzed Khan on the phone and invited him to the UK.  Pakistani media said that during the chatty conversation between both prime ministers, each addressed to each other by their first names, ‘Imran’ and ‘Boris’. But something went  badly amiss after that.

The government of Pakistan has said that Khan’s visit will not go ahead “due to internal security, political and regional situation.”  But the contrarian view posted on the website of The News website narrates an altogether different story. Apparently, Khan’s visit has been postponed because Pakistan wanted a UK-Pakistan partnership “road map for 10 years”, covering trade and defence–similar to the pact signed between the UK and India last month. Khan was apparently still living in a bubble, with aspirations of Britain’s hyphenated relationship with the two countries, even when India was invited to the G-7 high table and Pakistan is not even anywhere in the frame. Only the MI-6, the British foreign intelligence, is paying more attention to Pakistan than India, but that is for altogether different reasons, which need not be detailed here.

Khan wanted his first visit to the UK as the prime minister to be more “substantial” than symbolic and this was conveyed to the UK officials.

A Pakistani source quoted by the daily said that Khan wanted to establish a “strategic partnership” with post-Brexit UK, focussing on people-to-people connections, climate action, health, trade, immigration and culture. “There is no purpose of the visit during the pandemic involving all the hassle if there are no group level discussions and no agreements signed,” the source quoted in the report said.

Besides, Imran Khan’s friends and Pakistani government, through Pakistan High Commission London, wanted to hold a grand reception for PM Khan at the Wembley Stadium, apart from several meetings with the business community and the diaspora. But Covid restrictions in the UK meant that this was not possible. “We will wait for the UK to go to the final tier of relaxation and then plan the grand visit”.