Claiming that Pakistan Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa had broken the news of the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor to Navjot Singh Sidhu even before Imran Khan was sworn in as their prime minister, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh Sunday dubbed the whole affair as a “bigger conspiracy” hatched by the Pakistan army.
“The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor is clearly a game plan of the ISI,” the Chief Minister said, adding a bigger conspiracy seems to have been hatched by Pakistan Army against India. He admitted that Pakistan was attempting to revive militancy in Punjab and thus everyone should be wary of all of its overtures, no matter how grand they appear to be, an official release, quoting him, said.
The Sidhu affair was being unnecessarily hyped and those raising it had clearly failed to see the ISI game plan, said Captain Amarinder, lashing out at the Akalis for branding the Punjab minister as a stooge of the Pakistan Prime Minister. The Chief Minister hit out at the Akalis and the BJP Central leadership for “indulging” in unwarranted controversy over his (Chief Minister’s) relations with Sidhu.
This, he said, was in a bid to divert public attention from the core issue of Pakistan’s continued and deliberate perpetration of terror activities in Punjab with the ultimate aim of destabilising the border state.
Singh said the demand for opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor was pending since partition as several holy Sikh shrines (Sri Nankana Sahib, Sri Panja Sahib, Dera Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib) had been left in Pakistan. Even former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh had taken up the issue of opening the Kartarpur corridor with Pakistan, he added.
Amarinder said he himself had raised the issue with his Pakistan Punjab counterpart Parvez Elahi and with the then President, Parvez Musharraf during his previous tenure as the chief minister.
The Chief Minister said Imran Khan was undoubtedly making efforts to bring peace, tranquillity and harmony with India, but at the same time, he should also prevail upon the top brass of Pakistani Army to ensure that killings of our soldiers at borders are stopped immediately.
On why he opted not to go to Pakistan for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, Amarinder said he declined the invite because he could not think of going there while Indian soldiers and civilians were being killed by the Pakistani Army.
On the issue of Navjot Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan for the ground-breaking ceremony, Amarinder said he had told Sidhu that he had declined the invite by writing a letter to the Pakistan Minister for foreign affairs, and had also shared a copy of the same on the social media. Despite his advice not to visit Pakistan, Sidhu, went ahead due to his friendship with Imran Khan, said the Chief Minister, adding it was not unreasonable.
He said that he himself has many friends there, including the former Pakistan Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi. “We had been meeting frequently during my previous tenure and Elahi had also been coming to meet me in Patiala”, said Captain Amarinder.
The Chief Minister said that Navjot Sidhu was a “likeable person” and he shared warm ties with even Sidhu’s parents when the cricketer-turned-minister’s father was President of District Congress unit, Patiala, and his (Amarinder) mother Mohinder Kaur who was the Member of Parliament from Patiala.
The Chief Minister said that he and Sidhu were not at loggerheads as reported by the media and he had absolutely no problems with Sidhu while running the government. Amarinder Singh said that Sidhu always spoke in a forthright manner and his only problem was that “sometimes he shoots before he thinks.”
Regarding Sidhu’s remarks that Rahul Gandhi was his Captain, the Chief Minister said this was hardly an issue to be raised as Sidhu had always treated him (Amarinder) as a fatherly figure.
Amarinder Singh warned Pakistan against carrying on with its nefarious designs and urged it to desist from trying to foment trouble in Punjab. He also asked Pakistan to put an immediate end to the killing of Indian soldiers at the borders.
The Chief Minister charged the ISI with pursuing its ulterior motive to create law and order problem in Punjab by exploiting the religious sentiments of innocent Sikh youths in Canada, USA and even in Europe, and arming them with funds and weapons. Captain Amarinder Singh also lashed at the ‘Sikhs For Justice’ for abetting terrorism in Punjab by whipping the religious sentiments of Sikhs.
He said that the people of Punjab, especially the Sikhs from rural areas, would not lend support to its so-called ‘referendum 2020’. The SFJ’s claims of the Kartarpur Corridor being a gift of Pakistan also had no takers in Punjab, the Chief Minister added.