Navjot Singh Sidhu says he was asked to sit next to PoK President Masood Khan

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New Delhi | August 19, 2018 4:26 PM

"If someone (Pak Army Chief General Bajwa) comes to me&says that we belong to the same culture & we'll open Kartarpur border on Guru Nanak Dev's 550th Prakash Parv, what else I could do?"

Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has come back to India on Sunday after attending the oath-taking ceremony of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. (ANI)

Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has come back to India on Sunday after attending the oath-taking ceremony of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. After coming back to the country via Wagah border, Sidhu defended his embrace with Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Sidhu said that General Bajwa said to him that we belong to same culture and Pakistan will open Kartarpur border on Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th Prakash Parv, so he hugged him.

“If someone (Pak Army Chief General Bajwa) comes to me&says that we belong to the same culture & we’ll open Kartarpur border on Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th Prakash Parv, what else I could do?” news agency ANI quoted Sidhu as saying.

Apart from hugging General Bajwa, Sidhu came under sharp attack for sitting next to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) President Masood Khan. On this Sidhu said that he was sitting there because he was asked to sit there, it was not his choice. “If you’re invited as a guest of honour somewhere, you sit wherever you are asked to. I was sitting somewhere else but they asked me to sit there,” said Sidhu.

The sitting arrangement has sparked a fresh debate with many questioning the intention of Pakistan and the country’s protocol to treat its guest. Congress party came under severe attack by the BJP. The ruling party termed it a “deplorable act” of hugging Pakistan Army chief and asked Congress President Rahul Gandhi if he would suspend the leader for doing so.

While reacting on the controversy, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said the decision to attend the ceremony was Sidhu’s personal decision and it is not related to the government. However, Singh also said that Sidhu might be not knowing the person. “As far as attending the swearing-in ceremony is concerned, he went there in his personal capacity so it has nothing to do with us. About him being seated next to the PoK President, maybe he (Sidhu) didn’t know who he was,” ANI quoted Punjab CM as saying.

However, the Congress CM also said that Sidhu’s hug with Pakistan Army General was wrong. “But as far as hugging the Pakistan Army Chief is concerned I am not in its favour. It was wrong for him to have shown the affection towards the Pakistan Army Chief,” said Amarinder Singh.

In the swearing ceremony, General Bajwa after arriving at the function went to the front row of the guests where Sidhu was seated next to President of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) Masood Khan. Bajwa hugged Sidhu and both had a brief chat. Warm smiles were exchanged. As the two chatted, they hugged once more. Sidhu later told media that Pakistani army chief said: “We want peace”.

Imran Khan had invited Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev along with Sidhu. However, both did not go to Pakistan citing personal reasons. Sidhu went to Pakistan on August 17, he then said he has brought “a message of love” to Pakistan as a goodwill ambassador of India.

“I have come here not as a politician but as a friend. I have come here to take part in the happiness of my friend (Imran).” Sidhu went to Lahore via the Wagah border. He travelled from Lahore to Islamabad to attend the ceremony.

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