Khan’s visit to Sri Lanka; faced protest by Sri-Lankan Muslims

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Prime Minister Imran khan is on official two-day visit to Sri Lanka to improve bilateral ties. The Sri- Lankan Muslims are protesting against the forced cremation policies of Sri Lankan government.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is on his first two-day official visit to Sri-Lanka since he has taken office in 2018. The visit aims at boosting bilateral ties between the two South Asian countries. PM Imran Khan was received by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and was presented a guard of honor on his arrival. He was later introduced to the members of Sri Lankan cabinet. One to one meeting was held between Imran Khan and Mahinda Rajapaksa followed by delegation level. The two sides reaffirmed their commitment towards working together on wide range of areas that are of mutual benefit by signing several MoU’s.

As the Prime Minister of Pakistan said, “My visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral relationship [with Sri Lanka], especially trade and economic ties through enhanced connectivity”. During the meetings, the Prime Minister advised Sri Lankan counterpart to take advantage of CPEC.

The Foreign Office of Pakistan said, “Appreciating the rich Buddhist heritage of Pakistan and existence of great potential for religious tourism, it was agreed to enhance mutual collaboration including through sharing expertise in the hospitality industry, training and capacity-building,”.

The two-day visit also included speech of Prime Minister Imran Khan in the parliament of Pakistan. However, it was cancelled later on. The official statement of Sri Lankan government on this regard was the concern related to the corona pandemic. However, the diplomatic sources believe that the cancelation of speech was done out of concern that PM Imran Khan will speak against the treatment of Muslims in Indian Occupied Kashmir which could worsen the already troubled India – Sri Lanka relations. Others believed that it was out of fear that he would speak in favor of the oppressed and worried Sri Lankan Muslims.

The trouble going on between Sri Lankan government and the Muslim population is due to the forced cremations of Covid-19 victims. A planned demonstration was held by the Sri Lankan Muslims demanding end to forced cremations. A mock Janazah or coffin was held to negate the Sri Lankan government’s policy of banning burials of Covid victim hence taking their right to practice religion freely. The Sri Lanka’s majority Buddhist are cremated as per rituals and the Muslims are buried facing Makkah. The Muslim population see it as a forced policy to follow Buddhist rituals.

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