Pakistani-origin singer Adnan Sami, who was awarded the Padma Shri on Republic Day, told PTI on Thursday that his name had been unnecessary dragged into a controversy by “minor politicians”. Sami, who was born in Lahore, arrived in India in 2001 on a tourist visa. His Pakistani passport issued on May 27, 2010, expired on May 26, 2015, and was not renewed. Subsequently, Sami applied for Indian citizenship, which was granted on January 1, 2016.

“The people who are criticising are some minor politicians,” Sami said, perhaps in reference to his Twitter spat with Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill. “They are doing it because of some political agenda that they have and it has nothing to do with me. I am not a politician, I am a musician.”

The Congress had attacked the government on January 26, saying that while Kargil War veteran Mohammad Sannaullah was declared a foreigner through the National Register of Citizens in Assam, Sami, the son of a Pakistan Air Force pilot, had been awarded India’s fourth highest civilian award.

On Thursday, Sami alleged that the “minor politicians” have their own political agenda against the government, and are using his name as “another stepney” to further their agenda. He said his father’s past as an officer of the Pakistan Air Force was irrelevant.

“My father was a decorated fighter pilot and he was a professional soldier,” Sami said. “He did his duty for his country. I respect him for that. It was his life. He got awarded for that. I did not benefit or credit from that. Similarly, he cannot get credit for what I do. What has my award got to do with my father?”

Maharashtra Minorities Development Minister and Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Nawab Malik had called the recognition to Sami a damage control move in the face of criticism and protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.

Sami said he was willing to be subjected to personal and professional criticism, but did not want to be dragged into a political controversy. He said the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance government, led by the Congress, had awarded him the Naushad award when he was a Pakistani citizen. “Now I am an Indian citizen, perfectly entitled to be given this award,” he asserted. “They are bringing the Pakistani element, it is funny, hilarious. They are picking up on something because they don’t have anything else to pick up on.”

The singer said he is “friends with everybody”, be it the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Congress. “I am a musician. I share love through my music,” Sami added.