Islamabad: Hoping to better ties between the two countries, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani arrived here Wednesday to watch the high-voltage World Cup cricket semifinal between India and Pakistan.
The Pakistan Air Force flight carrying Gilani and his delegation landed at the Chandigarh airport around 12.25 pm. Gilani, who is here at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was received by union Minister of State for Communications Sachin Pilot.
Ahead of leaving Islamabad, Gilani, in his goodwill message to the people of India and Pakistan, said that both nations should enjoy cricket and appreciate extraordinary performance at Mohali.
“The idea behind my visit to Mohali is to promote cricket and friendship with India, “Gilani said shortly before leaving for Chandigarh to watch the high-voltage World Cup Semi-Final encounter between India and Pakistan.
When asked whether he will rely on cricket diplomacy to strengthen bilateral ties, the Pakistan Prezmiere said, “This is true that we are passing through a difficult time. Due to our ongoing war against terrorism, the atmosphere here is not conducive for the India cricket team to play here, but we would certainly invite Team India to come to Pakistan once the situation improves.”
When quizzed by reporters whether the invitation from Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was a “googly”, Gilani said, “Dr Singh is a good humored and seasoned politician. Both the sides want to improve the bilateral relationship. By inviting Pakistan leadership to watch the match he has send positive signals that will help in bringing the two nations closer”
Gilani also informed the anxious reporters that he was going to Mohali accompanied by an all-party delegation having representations from each province, each section of the Pakistani awam as an expression of solidarity.”
As per reports, Gilani will be accompanied by ex-premier Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and several of his Cabinet colleagues, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik, when he visits Mohali today to watch the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan.
Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan, Sports Minister Engineer Shaukatullah, Postal Services Minister Muhammad Gorgage and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar will also accompany Gilani.
Former minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, the spokesman of the ruling PPP, party lawmaker Sherry Rehman, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam parliamentarian Laiq Muhammad Khan and Muttahida Qaumi Movement's Farooq Sattar will also be part of the Premier's delegation.
The two Prime Ministers are expected to spend over five hours in a special box at the Mohali stadium though no formal talks have been scheduled so far, the report said.
Singh will host a dinner for Gilani and his delegation before his departure for Pakistan after the game.
The two Prime Ministers have met twice on the sidelines on international and regional meetings once at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in 2009 and again in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu last year.
They will meet again a day after the talks between the Home and Interior Secretaries of India and Pakistan that marked the formal resumption of dialogue between the two sides after a gap of over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
First Published: Wednesday, March 30, 2011, 13:25