Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has refused to attend a function in New Delhi later this week after learning that British author Salman Rushdie will also be a participant.
Senior PTI leader Shireen Mazari said in a statement on Wednesday that Khan cancelled his participation as keynote speaker at the event, stating that he could not even think of taking part in a programme that included Rushdie, who has caused “immeasurable hurt to Muslims across the globe”.
Quoting Khan, Mazari said the party leader received the full programme of the event on Tuesday night and took his decision on Wednesday morning.
The organisers of the event announced on Tuesday that Rushdie would deliver a speech titled The Liberty Verses —I Am What I Am And That’s All That I Am.
Rushdie’s works are banned in Pakistan. He is seen to have committed blasphemy in his book, The Satanic Verses.
Several people in Pakistan have been killed in the past couple of years on suspicion of blasphemy, the most high-profile case being that of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was shot dead in 2011 by a member of his security detail.
Taseer opposed Pakistan’s blasphemy law and had backed a mercy petition for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.
Khan’s party recently aligned with the Difa-e-Pakistan council — a collection of religious parties, including many banned outfits — which has been campaigning against US drone attacks and allowing transit passage for Nato supplies.