Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has refused to attend the India Today Conclave in New Delhi after learning about British author Salman Rushdie’s participation.
In a statement released by senior PTI leader Shireen Mazari, Khan cancelled his participation as a key note speaker at the conclave stating that he could not even think of participating in a program that included Rushdie, who has caused "immeasurable hurt to Muslims across the globe".
Quoting Khan, Mazari said that the party leader received the full program of the conclave last night and made his final decision early this morning.
Khan has expressed regrets to the organisers of the program.
India Today regrets Khan's withdrawal from event
India Today Group’s Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie on Wednesday said, "We deeply regret that Imran Khan, Chairman, Pakistan Tehreek-i- Insaf will not address India Today Conclave 2012 due to begin in New Delhi from March 16 because of Salman Rushdie's participation."
In a statement issued, Purie further said, "India Today Conclave is a platform for free and frank exchange of ideas. We do not endorse views of any of our speakers but we do stand for freedom of expression in all that we do; it's an essential principle of a free nation and free media. India Today Conclave now in its 11th year has established itself as an independent and credible forum for thinkers and leaders from around the world, not all agreeable to everyone. We wish that Imran had used this opportunity to express his views at the Conclave with all the force and lucidity that he possesses. We can all agree to disagree but we must present our argument."
On Tuesday, the organisers of the event had announced that Rushdie will speak at the conference on a speech titled “The Liberty Verses – I am What I am and That’s All That I am”.
Rushdie’s 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” is still banned in India for allegedly blaspheming Muslims.
Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor and US former diplomat Henry Kissinger are also due to speak during the two-day event at the luxury Taj Palace hotel.