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Why Pakistan’s Acting Prime Minister canceled Kenya visit

By Nyaboga Kiage September 4th, 2023 3 min read

Pakistan’s Acting Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar has abruptly cancelled his three-day visit to Kenya.

This decision comes just five days after he confirmed his attendance at the Africa Climate Change summit in the East African nation.

In an exclusive interview with Nairobi News, Pakistan’s Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi cited “unavoidable circumstances” as the reason behind the Prime Minister’s decision to withdraw from the summit.

The Africa Climate Summit, a two-day event commencing on September 4 and ending this Wednesday, September 6, has been a focal point of Kenya’s efforts to engage global leaders in addressing climate change.

Invitations were extended to numerous heads of state, with Kenya’s President, William Ruto, personally inviting leaders worldwide.

Also read: Revealed: Slain Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif’s final moments in Kenya

Murtaza Solangi clarified the situation: “Due to some unavoidable pressing engagements at home, the PM won’t be able to visit Kenya, and that has been communicated to the relevant Kenyan authorities.”

The cancellation of the visit raised concerns within Pakistan, with some public members speculating that Mr Solangi may have requested media outlets to manipulate facts regarding the Prime Minister’s travel plans.

Solangi vehemently denied these claims, asserting, “That is a lie. I did not approach any media house to edit anything about the PM’s visit to Kenya. If anybody has any evidence, they should bring it up.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister is pivotal in governing and representing the country on national and international platforms.

Kenya had extended the invitation to Mr Kakar as an opportunity to engage with other world leaders at the Africa Climate Summit, fostering diplomatic relationships and addressing climate-related concerns.

The Africa Climate Summit, jointly organised by Kenya and the African Union, is a crucial precursor to the COP28 United Nations climate summit scheduled for later this year.

Over 20 African heads of state and government, along with thousands of global delegates, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, have confirmed their participation.

Sources within the Prime Minister’s office indicated that the visit was initially accepted but later reconsidered.

Also read: Arshad Sharif murder: Owner of missing car recounts how police ‘frustrated’ him

Earlier communications from Mr Kakar’s office had detailed plans for bilateral meetings with African counterparts, including Kenyan officials, during the summit.

This cancellation marks the Prime Minister’s first foreign trip since taking office on August 14, 2023. Additionally, Kenya has not hosted a high-level delegation from Pakistan since 1980.

Despite the cancellation, Mr Kakar’s office confirmed that the Prime Minister intends to proceed with his planned visits to the United States of America and Saudi Arabia later this month.

In the USA, he is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 22 in New York, making him the first Pakistani caretaker premier to address the UNGA.

The decision to forgo the foreign tour appears to be influenced by the volatile domestic situation in Pakistan.

Recent public outrage has erupted over inflation, rising energy prices, and protests stemming from increased power tariffs. These protests have led to business closures in major cities across the country.

In addition to these challenges, demonstrations have emerged in response to the unsolved murder of investigative journalist Arshad Sharif. Protests demanding justice for Mr Sharif have gained momentum after revelations that police officers connected to the General Service Unit (GSU) were implicated in his murder.

Also read: What Pakistan is demanding from Kenya over Arshad Sharif’s murder

Mr Sharif, who had publicly expressed concerns about his safety, was fatally shot along Magadi Road in Kenya in October 2022 while reportedly seeking asylum in the United Kingdom.

His death raised diplomatic tensions between Pakistan and Kenya, with Pakistan accusing Kenya of obstructing the investigation into the journalist’s killing.

Nairobi News contacted Ms Javeria Siddique, the widow of Mr Sharif, who emphasized their primary goal is to secure justice for her husband.

Slain Pakistan journalist Mr Arshad Sharif with wife Javeria Siddique
Slain Pakistan journalist Mr Arshad Sharif with wife Javeria Siddique

She expressed disappointment over the cancellation of the Prime Minister’s visit, seeing it as a missed opportunity for dialogue with Kenyan President Ruto.

“This was a golden opportunity for the Pakistan Prime Minister to hold talks with the Kenyan President, but unfortunately, he is not going there,” Ms Siddique said.

“All we want is justice. It is already clear that the Kenyan National Police Service (NPS) mentioned that they know how my husband died. Why are they not taking action against the officers?” she questioned.

Earlier this year, Pakistan’s Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman had informed the Supreme Court that Kenyan authorities were not providing full access to the team investigating Mr Sharif’s death.

While Pakistan had requested cooperation in the investigation, the lack of access to the crime scene remained contentious.

The Attorney General accused Kenya of failing to grant Pakistan complete access to the crime scene, further straining diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Also read: ‘I open my WhatsApp to text him, then I remember…’ cries wife of slain Pakistan Journalist