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Imran Khan invites Sri Lankan Buddhists to visit Pakistan

February 24, 2021 GMT
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan inspects a Guard of Honor upon his arrival in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. Khan is in Sri Lanka for a two day official visit. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan inspects a Guard of Honor upon his arrival in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. Khan is in Sri Lanka for a two day official visit. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has proclaimed his Muslim-majority nation a choice destination for religious tourism by Sri Lankans, most of whom are Buddhists.

In talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday, Khan highlighted Buddhist heritage sites in Pakistan and stressed the building of cultural ties, the Pakistan Embassy said in a statement.

“Pakistan probably has one of the greatest Buddhist heritages in the world and we invite people from Sri Lanka to visit them,” Khan said a day earlier after meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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Khan is making a two-day official visit to Sri Lanka which began Tuesday.

Buddhists account for more than 70% of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people. Ethnic minority Tamils, who are mainly Hindu, comprise about 15% and 9% are Muslims.

Khan said northern Pakistan is the center of the ancient Buddhist Gandhara civilization and that a 40-foot (12-meter) sleeping Buddha statue was recently discovered there.

“We are planning a Buddhist trail ... with all the Buddhist great shrines and Buddhist places,” he said.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is the older brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.