Pro-Khalistan leader in Pakistan shares pic with Navjot Singh Sidhu, triggers row in India

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NEW DELHI: Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu is again facing criticism for meeting a pro-Khalistan leader during his visit to Pakistan for the ground breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor on Wenesday.

The verbal attack on Sidhu began after a picture of him with pro-Kalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla appeared on various social media platforms.

Chawla, a pro-Khalistan activist, had actually shared a photo with Sidhu on his Facebook post after which it went viral.

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Reports of Sidhu meeting Chawla emerged hours after the latter was seen shaking hands with Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during the Kartarpur event.

Commenting on the controversy, a Pakistani government official was quoted as saying that Gopal Singh Chawla is a senior leader of Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (PSGPC) and i a regular invitee to all events concerning the Sikh community.

Besides Chawla, who is general secretary of the PSGPC, several other pro-Khalistan leaders were also present at the event.

If the sources are to be believed, Chawla was behind Pakistan government’s move to deny permission to senior Indian High Commission officials to two gurudwaras in Pakistan recently.

The Pakistani government’s denial of permission to them triggered a diplomatic row in India following which the Government slammed Islamabad over the issue.

Sidhu, who is now a member of the Congress party and a minister in the Punjab government, had on Wednesday praised Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for opening the Kartarpur Corridor for facilitating Sikhs` pilgrimage, connecting the holy shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib (Kartarpur) in Pakistan.

“Whenever history is written about the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, Khan`s name will be written on the first page,” Sidhu said in his inaugural speech.

Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the Congress leader is known for his ”love for the neighbouring country” and slammed Sidhu for discussing domestic issues with Imran Khan at a time when Pakistan has been found involved in cross-border terrorism.

“It`s surprising to see Sidhu showering praise on Khan at a time when Pakistan has been found involved in terrorism in our country,” Javadekar said. “Sidhu should know that the event was not a `Laughters` Challenge programme,” he said.

“Sidhu committed the biggest sin by flouting norms of diplomatic relations by discussing domestic issues with Pakistan,” Javadekar added.

Union Minister and Shiramoni Akali Dal (SAD) leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal too took a dig at Sidhu, saying he gets more love in Pakistan than in India.

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