Amir Khan (R), of the Pakistani Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party greets Jahangir tareen (C), the senior leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party of Imran Khan, upon his arrival at the MQM headquarter in Karachi. Image Credit: AFP

Lahore: Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is considering inviting the leaders of the Saarc countries including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his oath-taking ceremony as the premier next month, a party official said on Tuesday.

The PTI, led by 65-year-old Khan, has emerged as the single largest party in the National Assembly after the July 25 elections, but it is still short of numbers to form the government on its own. Khan on Monday said he would take oath as prime minister on August 11.

“The core committee of Tehreek-i-Insaf is considering inviting the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation [Saarc] heads including Mr Modi and a decision on this is expected shortly,” a leader of Khan’s party told PTI.

He also termed Modi’s telephone call to Khan on his victory in the 2018 polls a welcoming sign to begin a new chapter in relations between the two countries.

Spokesperson for Khan’s party Fawad Chaudhry also did not rule out inviting Modi to the swearing in ceremony.

“A decision about it will be taken by the party in consultation with the foreign ministry in coming days,” he said.

Modi on Monday telephoned Khan to congratulate him on his party’s victory in the general elections and hoped that “Pakistan and India will work to open a new chapter in bilateral ties”.

Khan thanked Modi for his wishes and emphasised that disputes should be resolved through dialogue. “Wars and bloodshed instead of resolving disputes lead to tragedies,” Khan had said.

‘Better ties good for all’

Khan in his victory speech had also said that better relations between Pakistan and India would be “good for all of us”.

“If India’s leadership is ready, we are ready to improve ties with India. If you take on step forward we will take two steps forward,” he had said.

The relations between India and Pakistan remained tense since 2014. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had travelled to Delhi to attend Modi’s oath-taking ceremony and the Indian premier had in December 2015 made a stopover in Lahore to greet his counterpart on his birthday.

The India-Pakistan ties nosedived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place.

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

The two sides often accuse each other of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control, resulting in civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Khan’s party announced Monday it has acquired enough seats in Pakistan’s lower house through coalition talks to form a majority government.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said after getting the backing of other political parties, as well as seats reserved for minorities and women, Khan’s party was in a position to “comfortably” form the federal government.

Independent candidates

“We currently have the backing of 168 members including coalition parties and the reserved seats for minorities and women and we are in talks with more independent candidates who will join us in the coming days,” he told journalists in Islamabad.

The PTI has reached out to regional parties and independents to get the required number of seats to form a government.

Meanwhile, three major political parties including Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party announced they would form a grand opposition in parliament.

Talking to journalists after a meeting, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the parties had agreed in principle to form a strong opposition both inside and outside the parliament.

Representatives of the three parties said they will issue a white paper about alleged election rigging.

No date has yet been set for protests announced over the weekend by parties including the PML-N.