Sidhu defends jhappi with Pak Army Chief


Cricketer turned politician and Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday said his visit to Pakistan was not “political” but just on a “warm invitation from a friend”, in a bid to clarify his decision to visit the neighbouring country and hug its Army chief.While addressing a press conference here, Sidhu said, “I am hurt over the criticism for my sudden meeting and emotional reaction of hugging Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. At our unplanned meeting he told me that they were making efforts to open the corridor from India’s Dera baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan where Guru Nanak had spent 18 years. My reaction to this was purely emotional on behalf of the people of Punjab as millions of them are waiting for a chance to visit Kartarpur Sahib.”

He said his seat was changed at the last minute and he did not know who sat next to him.On Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh not approving of the act of Sidhu hugging Bajwa, he said, “If he has spoken against me, it does not mean I have to give a reply. Sunil Jakhar and others have also spoken. Each one can express his view. I did what my heart felt was right.

”Reacting to the criticism by the BJP, Sidhu said, “Before me, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had paid a visit to Pakistan as a peace gesture. That was followed by the Kargil war. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Pakistan on an unannounced visit, our country witnessed the terrorist attack in Pathankot. But did the attempts at making peace stop? I have also made a similar attempt to sink our differences.”“I could not attend Vajpayee’s funeral as the news of his death came very late. I had already committed to Imran Khan that I would come. Vajpayee would have been only too happy as I was just carrying forward his legacy of peace,” Sidhu said.

He said, “It was not a political invite. We have old bonds and I could not decline the invitation. Imran came to me after the swearing-in and twice said, ‘Shabash! Bahadur ho.’ It is unfortunate that we have lost our soldiers, but we must give peace a chance.”Sidhu said, “I had a 40-minute talk with Imran after the swearing-in. Of course, it was not about cricket. We discussed the vital issues facing our countries. Our conversation was private and I would not like to share it here. THE TRIBUNE


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