(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS AGENCY)
Citing terror by Pakistan, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh declines invite to Kartarpur ceremony
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh cited terrorist attacks in his state and the killings of Indian soldiers by Pakistani armed forces.
INDIA Updated: Nov 25, 2018 23:34 IST
Punjab’s chief minister Amarinder Singh has declined an invitation by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to attend the laying of the foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor on November 28, citing terrorist attacks in his state and the killings of Indian soldiers by Pakistani armed forces.
In a letter to the Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Amarinder welcomed it as a “historic occasion”, which he also described as a “cherished desire of Sikhs around the world”, but said he would not be present for the ceremony across the border.
“[Pakistan’s spy agencies] ISI has started its nefarious activities within Punjab and since my government was sworn in, in March 2017, the state neutralized 19 ISI armed and controlled modules, apprehended 81 terrorists and recovered 79 weapons, in addition to numerous grenades made in Pakistan’s ordnance factories,” said Amarinder, referring to last week’s grenade attack on a Nirankari religious gathering in Amritsar.
Two people have been arrested in connection with the attack that killed three people. Police suspect the role of a Khalistani group backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
“I hope the Pakistan Prime Minister will understand that in these circumstances it will not be possible for me to be present in Pakistan, despite the fact that paying my respects at Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib has always been a cherished dream which will hopefully be fulfilled once these hostilities are stopped,” added Amarinder, who received the invitation from Qureshi on the behalf of PM Imran Khan.
But a minister in his state cabinet, Navjot Singh Sidhu, accepted the invitation “with unalloyed joy”.
“As our nations take this first step, the Kartarpur Spirit can make pilgrims of us all, venturing out on a journey that breaks the barriers of history and opens the borders of hearts and the mind,” he wrote in his letter to Qureshi.
Sidhu, on his last visit to Pakistan on August 18 to attend Khan’s swearing in ceremony, sparked a controversy after he hugged Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched an attack and the Punjab CM expressed unhappiness over his gesture, Sidhu justified his visit to Pakistan saying he went there as a messenger of peace and hugged the Pakistani army chief in an emotional response to the information provided by him that the neighbour country was working on the corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.
On Thursday, both India and Pakistan agreed to build corridor on their respective sides, to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019. Welcoming the move, Amarinder had said the move will facilitate pilgrims desirous of visiting Kartarpur gurudwara. But the next day the government lodged a strong protest with Pakistan after Indian diplomats were harassed and denied access to Sikh pilgrims visiting gurudwaras in Pakistan.
Vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu will lay foundation stone in Dera Baba Nanak on Indian side on November 26. Amarinder will attend the function, in which his political rival Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) will also be a present.
Union minister of state Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the SAD will attend the ceremony on the Pakistan side along with Union urban development minister Hardeep Puri.
First Published: Nov 25, 2018 23:34 IST