Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday thanked cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu for attending his oath-taking ceremony on Saturday. Khan called Sidhu, who has been criticised for attending the ceremony and for hugging Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, “an ambassador of peace”.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was among those who criticised his Cabinet colleague. “Every day, our jawans are getting martyred,” Singh had said. “To hug their Chief General Bajwa... I am against this.” Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra also raised objections about Sidhu sitting next to Masood Khan, the president of the part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir that Islamabad calls “Azad Jammu and Kashmir”.
On Monday, a lawyer filed a sedition case against the Congress leader in the court of Muzaffarpur’s chief judicial magistrate.
Imran Khan said those criticising Sidhu were “doing a great disservice to peace in the subcontinent”. Without peace the people of the two countries cannot progress, he added.
Sidhu also defended his actions, saying the hug was an emotional reaction after the general told him that Pakistan may allow Sikh pilgrims direct access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur next year. The gurdwara at present is built on the site where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, died on September 22, 1539.
He asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not questioned for hugging former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during an unscheduled visit to Lahore in 2015.
Reacting to the criticism for sitting next to Masood Khan, Sidhu said his seat had been changed at the last moment. “I was told just five minutes before [the] ceremony that I was to be seated on front row. I sat wherever they made me sit,” said Sidhu.