Pakistan PM says Kartarpur corridor a sincere effort, not a googly
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday appeared to distance himself from foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s remarks that the Kartarpur corridor was a “googly”, saying it was a “sincere effort” to improve relations with India.
Qureshi had angered external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal by saying that Khan, a former cricketer, had bowled a “googly” that ensured India’s presence at groundbreaking ceremony for the corridor in Pakistan.
Asked to comment on the issue during a meeting with TV anchors and reporters, Khan said Pakistan is sincere about establishing better ties with India. “The Kartarpur corridor was not a googly or a double game but a straightforward decision,” Khan was quoted as saying by Geo News.
“The (groundbreaking) ceremony was a peace initiative. It was a sincere effort. So was the invitation extended to the Indian ministers. It was not a googly for sure,” he said.
Indian ministers Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri and Punjab state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu were present at the groundbreaking ceremony in Kartarpur on November 28.
During an interaction with visiting Indian journalists the following day, Qureshi had said there was no googly hidden in Khan’s Kartarpur gesture. However, a day later, he said Khan had bowled a googly to ensure India sent two ministers to the event and engaged with Pakistan.
The remarks had triggered a war of words between Swaraj and Qureshi. Swaraj sent out a set of tweets on Sunday, accusing Qureshi of using the occasion for political gains and expressing her displeasure over his “googly” remarks.
Swaraj alleged Qureshi’s remarks had shown Pakistan has no respect for sentiments of the Sikh community.
Qureshi responded by saying Swaraj’s comments were a “deliberate attempt” to “mislead” the Sikh community. He said Pakistan had taken this initiative in “good faith”.
The corridor will connect the Kartarpur Gurdwara in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district in India.
Khan also said the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur corridor was smooth and there was no opposition from the Pakistani military. “Kartarpur is to Sikhs what Medina is to (Muslims). Imagine how sad it would be if we were barred from going to Medina or imagine how happy we would be if we can freely go to Medina,” he said, referring to the Saudi Arabian city where Prophet Mohammed is buried.