Congress lawmaker Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was given Pakistan’s first invite to attend the Kartarpur corridor opening event on November 9, has written to the foreign ministry for permission to cross the border to attend the opening ceremony presided by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In a letter to external affairs minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday, Sidhu said his itinerary was “crystal clear”. His first preference is to reach Kartarpur early on the November 9 morning via the corridor and return the same day.
“I would first like to meditate at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib (Kartarpur) for the shukrana (thanksgiving), have langar with the sangat (community) as a humble Sikh, attend the inauguration ceremony come back by evening through the corridor,” he wrote in the letter to Jaishankar.
If this isn’t possible, Sidhu wrote, then he planned to go to “Gurdwara Darbar Sahib through Wagah border a day before on November 8, stay overnight at the gurdwara, attend the ceremony and return the next day through the corridor.”
Sidhu, who had travelled to Pakistan last November for the corridor’s ground-breaking ceremony, said he didn’t have a visa for Pakistan “at present”.
That visit also was on the invitation of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sidhu’s friend from his cricketing days.
It was during Navjot Sidhu’s trip to Pakistan to attend Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony last year that Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had okayed plans to build the corridor to enable pilgrims to travel to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, the resting place of Guru Nanak who founded Sikh faith. This corridor is dedicated to 550th parkash purb (birth anniversary) of Guru Nanak.
There has been no word from the Centre on Sidhu’s request. But there has been a bundle of criticism from Sidhu’s party for his decision to attend the ceremony in Pakistan.
Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder slammed Sidhu and told news channel India Today that Sidhu should have been part of the first jatha that will travel to Kartarpur Sahib after the corridor on the Indian side is inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sidhu, a former member of Amarinder Singh’s cabinet, had exited the council of ministers after his portfolios were changed by his boss on grounds that he hadn’t performed.
Sidhu’s letter comes a day after hoardings appeared in Amritsar, the constituency he represents in the state assembly, with photographs that show him with Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan, describing them as the “real heroes” for getting the corridor built.
The real heroes behind the Kartarpur corridor. We, Punjabis, admit that the credit goes to Navjot Singh Sidhu and Imran Khan,” read one of the hoardings. The municipal corporation removed the hoardings within hours of their appearance, officials said on Wednesday.