Navjot Singh Sidhu says Pakistan may give access to Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara
The Sikh community has been demanding a “special corridor” through the international border to the shrine that fell in Pakistan after the Partition.india Updated: Aug 19, 2018 00:09 IST
Pakistan may allow Sikh pilgrims a direct access to the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, situated barely 3km from the border in Gurdaspur, on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, next year.
Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu made the declaration in Islamabad on Saturday, soon after his brief meeting with Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s Prime Minister.
“Without my asking, I received this precious gift. Gen Bajwa hugged me and said they were thinking of opening the Kartarpur route during Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations. I had been thinking our chief minister (Captain?Amarinder Singh) would take this up with Pakistan, but the general made this gracious gesture on his own. He also said we want peace,” Sidhu said while addressing a press conference alongside Pakistani cricketer Rameez Raja.
The Sikh community has long been demanding a “special corridor” through the international border to the shrine that went to Pakistan after the Partition.
Sidhu’s dramatic statement came amid a political storm kicked up back home over his gesture of hugging General Bajwa and his being seated next to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s president Masood Khan during a glittering swearing-in ceremony.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party pilloried Sidhu and called his acts in Pakistan as “ against the national interest”.
The sharpest criticism, though, came from the BJP, a party Sidhu was associated with until 2017 when he switched to the Congress. “ Sidhu’s actions have put the country’s dignity at risk,” claimed Punjab BJP chief Shwait Malik, demanding his apology.
A live coverage of Khan’s ascent on Pakistani news channels showed a beaming Sidhu, wearing a dark blue suit and a purple turban, in the front row of special guests at the Aiwan-e- Sadr (the President House).
General Bajwa went to the front row of the guests where Sidhu was seated next to Masood Khan, and hugged him. Warm smiles were exchanged as the two chatted briefly, and hugged each other again – apparently after Bajwa’s word on the gurdwara.
Speaking to state-run PTV, Sidhu hoped that his friend Imran Khan’s accession to the prime minister’s post will be good for Pakistan-India peace process. He used his usual poetic expression to praise Khan.
(With inputs from agencies)
First Published: Aug 18, 2018 23:34 IST