While Punjab Cabinet Minister and senior Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu is heaping praises over Pakistan Prime Minister “friend” Imran Khan, his party colleagues back home maintained that the former cricketer is responsible for his own statements on the other side of the border as he has gone on “in his personal capacity”.
Notably, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on a day before had maintained that he had asked his Cabinet colleague Sidhu “to reconsider his decision to go to Pakistan for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor but had acceded to his request for permission to go since I do not believe in stopping anyone from undertaking a personal visit”.
Capt Amarinder, who had aggressively declined Pak’s invite for the ceremony, had maintained that he “do not stop anyone from going anywhere on a private visit. It is not an official visit”.
Meanwhile, Congress’ Rajya Sabha MP Paartap Singh Bajwa said: “Navjot Singh Sidhu went there on personal invitation. He didn’t go there in an official capacity as a Minister. This has also been clarified by the Punjab CM. The onus of whatever he says there in his personal capacity lies on him alone.”
At the same time, Bajwa lashed out at the Central Government for criticising Sidhu over his Pak visit. “Navjot Singh Sidhu went there (Pakistan) for the second time in three-four months. Who issued him visa? Ministry of External Affairs. First, you issue him a visa, and then you talk about what he did or say after going there,” said Bajwa.
Also supporting Sidhu’s visit, Punjab Cabinet Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said that Sidhu is on personal visit and whatever he was doing there, “he is doing in his personal capacity, but not as Punjab Cabinet Minister”.
Bajwa said that Capt Amarinder rejected Pak’s invite as he had received it as Punjab Chief Minister. “Capt Amarinder is a true Sikh. But he did not accept Pakistan’s invitation keeping his mind his Chief Minister's post,” he said.
Another senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity, said that even though Sidhu has been criticised for his Pak visits, it was his first visit across the border in August that has eventually resulted in opening of the Kartarpur corridor.
“His visit infused a fresh life into the issue, and whether I should say it this way or not, his friend from the cricketing days, who happen to be Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan has gifted this corridor to Sidhu,” said the Congress leader.