Govt. fears volatile political atmosphere could affect attendance at event

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s address to Parliament on Friday has been cancelled amid fears that the fraught political atmosphere could affect attendance at the event.

Mr. Karzai was scheduled to deliver the prestigious Hiren Mukherjee memorial lecture in the Central Hall of Parliament on “Afghanistan’s experience in constitutionalism and democracy: Lesson we take from India” in the course of his visit to India that begins on Thursday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee decided to call off the event, said New Delhi-based diplomatic sources, worried that poor attendance might embarrass India.

Our Special Correspondent adds

Karzai to meet Manmohan, Khurshid

Thought Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s address to Parliament on Friday has been cancelled, he will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid as scheduled to discuss Afghanistan’s security and economic requirements in the face of drawdown by western security forces.

He will leave for Pune on Saturday and interact with businessmen. On Sunday, he will address an international relations meet at Symbiosis International University.

The lecture in Parliament was to have been co-hosted by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

Sources in the Union government confirmed that the cancellation was due to the heightened emotions among sections of parliamentarians over different issues such as Telangana.

Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said they were told that the lecture would not take place on Friday “given the commotion that is going on in Parliament.”

But the Lok Sabha Secretariat said Mr. Karzai’s scheduled lecture was “postponed” and did not give any reason for it.

South Block officials did not put much store on an event being shaved off from Mr. Karzai’s itinerary who, as they pointed out, is an honoured and frequent visitor to India.

Afghanistan’s Ambassador Shaida Abdali had announced that Mr. Karzai would deliver the lecture. However, sources in the presidential palace told The Hindu that they were informed of the changed plans on Wednesday.

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