Citing the fact that Pakistan Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa had broken the news of opening the Kartarpur Corridor to Navjot Singh Sidhu even before Imran Khan was sworn in as their prime minister, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has dubbed the whole affair as a bigger conspiracy hatched by the Pak army.
The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor is clearly a game plan of the ISI, said the Chief Minister in an interview to a TV channel, adding that a bigger conspiracy seems to have been hatched by Pakistan Army against India. He admitted that Pakistan was attempting to revive militancy in Punjab and thus everyone should be wary of all of its overtures, no matter how grand they appear to be.
The Sidhu affair was being unnecessarily hyped and those raising it had clearly failed to see the ISI game plan, said Captain Amarinder, lashing out at the Akalis for branding the Punjab minister as stooge of the Pakistan Prime Minister.
The Chief Minister dismissed it as nothing more than a credit war, lambasting the Akalis and the BJP Central leadership for indulging in unwarranted controversy over his (Chief Minister’s) relations with Sidhu in a bid to divert public attention from the core issue of Pakistan’s continued and deliberate perpetration of terror activities in Punjab with the ultimate aim of destabilizing the border state.
Captain Amarinder said the demand for opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor was pending since partition as several holy Sikh shrines (Sri Nankana Sahib, Sri Panja Sahib, Dera Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib) had been left in Pakistan. Even former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Dr. Manmohan Singh had taken up the issue of opening the Kartarpur corridor with Pakistan. He said, he himself had raised this issue with his Pakistan Punjab counterpart Parvez Elahi and with the then President, Parvez Musharraf during his previous tenure as the chief minister.
The Chief Minister said Imran Khan was undoubtedly making efforts to bring peace, tranquillity and harmony with India, but at the same time he should also prevail upon the top brass of Pakistani Army to ensure that killings of our soldiers at borders are stopped immediately. Pakistan’s history reveals that if any Prime Minister wants to stay in power, he has to toe the line of the Army, said the Chief Minister, citing the example of Nawaz Sharif’s agreement with the Pakistani Army in Dubai, which led to his continuation as Prime Minister.
Asked on why he opted not to go to Pakistan for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, Captain Amarinder said he declined the invite because he could not think of going there while Indian soldiers and civilians were being killed by Pakistani Army.
On the issue of Navjot Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan for the ground-breaking ceremony, Captain Amarinder said that he had told Sidhu that he had declined the invite by writing a letter to the Pak Minister for foreign affairs, and had also shared a copy of the same on the social media. Despite his advice not to visit Pakistan, Sidhu, however, went ahead due to his friendship with Imran Khan, said the Chief Minister, adding that this was not unreasonable. He said that he himself has many friends there, including the former Pakistan Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi. “We had been meeting frequently during my previous tenure and Elahi had also been coming to meet me in Patiala”, said Captain Amarinder.
The Chief Minister said that Navjot Sidhu was a “likeable person” and he shared warm ties with even Sidhu’s parents when the cricketer-turned-minister’s father was President of District Congress unit Patiala and his (Captain’s) mother Mohinder Kaur was the Member Parliament from Patiala. The Chief Minister said that he and Sidhu were not at loggerheads as reported by the media and he had absolutely no problems with Sidhu while running the Government. Captain Amarinder Singh said that Sidhu always spoke in a forthright manner and his only problem was that “sometimes he shoots before he thinks.”
Responding to another question regarding Sidhu’s remarks that Rahul Gandhi was his Captain, the Chief Minister said that this was hardly any issue to be raised as Sidhu had always treated him (Captain) as a fatherly figure.
In response to a question, Captain Amarinder warned Pakistan against carrying on with its nefarious designs and urged it to desist from trying to foment trouble in Punjab. He also asked Pakistan to put an immediate end to the killing of Indian soldiers at the borders.
Pakistan Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa should understand that Punjab Police was fully geared up to take Pakistan head-on if it continued to the vitiate peaceful atmosphere of the state through terror, said Captain Amarinder. General Bajwa was sadly mistaken in underestimating the unbounded capacities and capabilities of Punjab police in facing any daunting challenge. He advised Bajwa not to compare Punjab with the 1970s and 1980s when its police force was a meager 16000-17000. The force now was well equipped with high tech weapons and ammunition, along with professionally committed commando battalions and Punjab Armed Force, to effectively tackle any challenging task, the Chief Minister asserted.
Captain Amarinder pointed to the recent successes of the Punjab Police, including the arrest of two culprits, within days, for the grenade attack at the Nirankari Bhawan in Adliwal village of Amritsar district in connivance with ISI agents. The proactive police force of Punjab had also successfully busted 19 ISI-based terror modules and arrested 81 operatives since his government took over, added the Chief Minister.
Reiterating his Government’s commitment to break the backbone of terrorism, Captain Amarinder said that no one would be allowed to push back Punjab back into those black days of terrorism.
The Chief Minister further pointed out that the several militants organisations, which had been active in Punjab in the past were now completely eliminated, and the ISI was pursuing its ulterior motive to create law and order problem in Punjab by exploiting the religious sentiments of innocent Sikh youths in Canada, USA and even in Europe, and arming them with funds and weapons.
Captain Amarinder also lashed at the ‘Sikhs For Justice’ for abetting terrorism in Punjab by whipping the religious sentiments of Sikhs. He said that the people of Punjab, especially the Sikhs from rural areas, would not lend support to his so called ‘referendum 2020’. The SFJ’s claims of the Kartarpur Corridor being a gift of Pakistan also had no takers in Punjab, said the Chief Minister.