Punjab CM Amarinder Singh shares decades-old cricketing ties with Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s family
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday had a five-minute bus ride with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on way to Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara during which the two discussed cricket and Singh recalled how Khan’s uncle played cricket for Patiala and India under his father’s captaincy in 1934-35.
Singh who was part of the first ‘jatha’ that went to pay obeisance at historic Gurdwara, shared the five-minute bus ride with Khan after he was received by the Pakistan premier and his foreign minister at the Zero Point of the International Border of the Kartarpur corridor.
Kartarpur Corridor was the focal point of the connect between Imran Khan, who was also Pakistan cricket team’s captain once, and Amarinder Singh when they met on Saturday, said an official statement from the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office.
“But there was another, equally interesting, subject of common interest they discovered and talked about during the short bus ride from the Pak side of the Zero Line to Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara,” the statement added.
“Cricket, of course, is always a common thread between every Indian and Pakistani,” the statement said. “It bonds as well as it fires passions between the two sides. But this bus ride was one of bonding, with Captain Amarinder Singh helping Imran (Khan) discover a special connect between their families, even though the two had not met before and did not know each other personally,” it said.
During the short journey, Singh told Khan that he had seen the Pakistani prime minister play in his cricketing days.
The cricketing connect, however, went deeper, the chief minister recalled. “During his conversation with Imran, Captain Amarinder told the latter that his uncle, Jahangir Khan had played for Patiala, along with Mohd Nisar, Lala Amarnath, fast bowler Amar Singh and the two Ali batsmen (Wazir Ali and Amir Ali). “These seven players were part of the team captained by Captain Amarinder’s father, Maharaja Yadvinder Singh (the ruler of the erstwhile Patiala state) in 1934-35, for India and for Patiala – a fascinating bit of information that Imran enjoyed hearing from the Chief Minister”.
Imran Khan’s uncle Jahangir Khan was married to Pakistan PM’s maternal aunt Mubarak and was a cricketer during the British era, the statement from the Chief Minister’s Office said, putting the historical links in perspective.
“The bus ride lasted less than five minutes, but, thanks to the cricket, it was enough to break the ice between Imran and Captain Amarinder,” it said.
Incidentally, Amarinder Singh shared the bus ride with Pakistan PM along with his bete-noire and former Cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu. Also present on the bus was Pakistan’s foreign minister.
Amarinder hoped “the journey through Kartarpur Corridor, which culminated for him in the realisation of a cherished dream, would continue in the future to build a stronger connect between the two countries – one that is as powerful as cricket,” which he hoped the two sides will try to play in the true spirit of the sport in future.
The Punjab chief minister was part of the first batch of over 550 Indian pilgrims who entered Pakistan through the Kartarpur corridor, which was thrown open days ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev on November 12.
The corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the Indian section of the Kartarpur Corridor and flagged of the first group of pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. The portion of the Corridor falling on the Pakistani side was thrown open by the neighbouring nation’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.