CHANDIGARH: The opposition in Punjab on Saturday targeted Navjot Singh Sidhu for attending the swearing-in ceremony of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, with the BJP describing his visit to Islamabad as “shameful”.
It also asked the cricketer-turned-politician whether it was necessary to visit Pakistan at a time when India was mourning the demise of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Sidhu’s hug with Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the ceremony also came under fire with the opposition parties asking him whether he remembered the sacrifices made by the Indian soldiers at the border at that time.
“Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan is shameful,” said Punjab BJP chief Shwait Malik.
“On one side, the Pakistan army was involved in attacking our soldiers at the border and on the other side Sidhu was hugging the Army chief. Does it mean he was thanking him for killing our jawans?” he asked.
Malik dubbed Sidhu as an “opportunist” and accused him of putting the nation’s dignity at risk.
The BJP leader demanded an apology from him for the “unacceptable act.”
The Shiromani Akali Dal said Sidhu broke the “decorum” by visiting Pakistan.
“The whole nation is observing seven-day mourning in the wake of the death of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. At this point of time, it becomes necessary that no minister should attend ceremonial functions. By visiting Pakistan, Sidhu has broken the decorum,” said SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema.
He said Sidhu’s hugging of Bajwa, who was sitting next to president of Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) Masood Khan, has sent a “wrong message” to Indian armed forces.
The SAD targeted the ruling Congress, saying the party which had been criticising the GoI over the deaths of soldiers at the border should now explain to the “controversial visit” of its own leader.
Sidhu is a Cabinet minister in the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in Punjab.
The main opposition party, the Aam Aadmi Party, also condemned Sidhu for hugging Pakistan Army chief.
“Though it is Sidhu’s personal visit to Pakistan, if he hugged Pakistan Army chief then it is condemnable,” said AAP MLA and Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema.
Haryana Health minister Anil Vij termed Sidhu’s participation in the ceremony as an “act of disloyalty” towards India which “will not be endorsed by any patriotic citizen” of the country.
Sidhu was among the special guests present at Khan’s oath-taking ceremony at the Aiwan-e-Sadr (the President House) in Islamabad, Pakistan on Saturday.
He had arrived in Pakistan on Friday via the Wagah border.
Talking to the media, Sidhu hoped that his friend Khan’s accession to the prime minister’s post will be good for Pakistan-India peace process.
Bajwa after arriving at the ceremony hugged Sidhu and both chatted briefly.
Khan, 65, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was administered the oath of office as Pakistan’s 22nd Prime Minister by President Mamnoon Hussain on Saturday.