CHANDIGARH: Noting that Pakistan Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa had broken the news of opening the Kartarpur Corridor to cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu even before Imran Khan was sworn in as their prime minister, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh described the whole affair as a big conspiracy hatched by the Pakistani army.
The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor is clearly a game plan of the ISI to revive militancy in Punjab, he said, and everyone should be wary of all of its overtures, no matter how grand they appear. The Sidhu affair was being unnecessarily hyped and those raising it had clearly failed to see the ISI game plan, said Amarinder, lashing out at the Akalis for branding the Punjab minister as stooge of the Pakistan Prime Minister.
Dismissing it as nothing more than a credit war, he lambasted the Akalis and the BJP Central leadership for indulging in unwarranted controversy over his (Chief Minister’s) relations with Sidhu in a bid to divert public attention from the core issue of Pakistan’s deliberate perpetration of terror activities in Punjab with the ultimate aim of destabilizing the border state.
Amarinder said the demand for opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor was pending since partition as several holy Sikh shrines (Nankana Sahib, 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 corridor with Pakistan. He himself had raised this issue with his counterpart in the Pakistan side of Punjab, Parvez Elahi and with the then President, Pervez Musharraf during his previous tenure as the CM, he said.
Arguing that Imran Khan was undoubtedly making efforts to make peace with India, he said at the same time Imran should also prevail upon the top brass of Pakistani Army to stop killing Indian soldiers at the border immediately. Pakistan’s history reveals that if any Prime Minister wants to stay in power, he has to toe the line of the Army, he added, citing the example of Nawaz Sharif’s agreement with the Pakistani Army in Dubai, which led to his continuation as Prime Minister.
On the issue of Navjot Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan for the ground-breaking ceremony, Amarinder said that he had told Sidhu that he had declined the invitation by writing a letter to Pakistan’s Minister for foreign affairs, which he had also shared on social media. Despite his advice, Sidhu went ahead due to his friendship with Imran Khan, said the Chief Minister, adding that this was not unreasonable. He said that he himself has many friends there, including 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”, he said.
Asserting that he and Sidhu were not at loggerheads and he had absolutely no problems with Sidhu while running the government, Amarinder said that Sidhu always spoke in a forthright manner and his only problem was that “sometimes he shoots before he thinks.” Responding to another question regarding Sidhu’s remarks that Rahul Gandhi was his Captain, the CM said that this was hardly an issue as Sidhu had always treated him (Captain) as a fatherly figure.