In a huge embarrassment to visiting Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Monday publicly termed Afghanistan as a major drug-smuggling nation, holding it responsible for the drug menace afflicting Punjab's youths.
Badal was about to end his address at the third convocation of Lovely Professional University (LPU), near here, when he turned towards the dais to seek Karzai's attention.
Karzai immediately stood up to listen to Badal, who said in English: "All the heroine (sic) came to Punjab from Afghanistan." The gathering and the dignitaries on the dais, including President Pranab Mukherjee and Punjab governor Shivraj V Patil, burst into laughter, presuming that the CM was talking about Afghan beauties, not narcotics.
But Badal quickly made it clear that he was referring to heroin. "Karzai sahib, heroin consignments are being smuggled from Afghanistan to Punjab via Pakistan. Drugs, including cocaine, are being supplied throughout the world. I am sorry to raise this issue. Please don't mind my words. Punjabi youths are badly affected due to the use of drugs being smuggled from Afghanistan," Badal said.
Badal lamented that Punjab, which was known as the granary and sword arm of the country and had made tremendous sacrifices to the freedom struggle, was now combating drug trafficking.
He added apologetically, "We know that sometimes it is beyond the control of the government to tackle such a contentious issue. I am sorry if I didn't use proper words."
As Badal finished his address and moved towards the dais to take his seat besides Karzai, the latter immediately started a conversation with him. The duo kept interacting before the next speaker began his speech.
Political observers opined that Badal should not have chosen a public platform to raise an international issue with Karzai, who is a state guest. "The issue is of public importance, but the state government should have forwarded such information to the Afghanistan government through the ministry of external affairs," an observer said.