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Pakistan visit not political, Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have been happy: Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu

Sidhu explained that he was unable to attend Vajpayee’s funeral as the news reached him late. “It was not a political invite. I have old ties with Khan Sahib, and I could not turn down his invitation.

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Under fire for the Pakistan visit, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu asserted it was a personal invite from Imran Khan and added that late PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have been happy with him for carrying forward his legacy of peace.

Sidhu explained that he was unable to attend Vajpayee’s funeral as the news reached him late. “It was not a political invite. I have old ties with Khan Sahib, and I could not turn down his invitation. He came to me later and said, ‘Shabash! Bahadur ho.’ It’s unfortunate that we have lost our soldiers, but we must give peace a chance,” he told reporters.

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He said he had already agreed to attend Khan’s swearing in ceremony by the time he learnt about Vajpayee’s death. “Vajpayee would have been too happy as I was just carrying forward his legacy of peace.’’

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 “Vajpayee had travelled by bus to Lahore, and after that the Kargil war took place. PM Narendra Modi went to Pakistan unannounced... During that surprise stopover, he hugged Nawaz Sharif. No one is questioning Modi,” he said, adding that the visit was followed by the Pathankot terror attack. “But, did the attempts to ensure peace stop? I also made a similar attempt.”
The cricketer-turned-politician is facing flak from various quarters, with the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal’s Agra unit president going to the extent of offering `5 lakh to anyone who brings the head of Sidhu to him.

Sighu said he was hurt over the criticism for hugging the Pakistan Army chief. “It was an unplanned meeting. He (General Qamar Javed Bajwa) told me that efforts were on to open the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib. My reaction was emotional on behalf of the people of Punjab.’’

“I was criticised by the Captain (Punjab CM), by top Congress leaders. It is not necessary that if the Captain has spoken against me, I should reciprocate.” Meanwhile, Khan came out in defence of Sidhu. “I want to thank Sidhu for coming to Pakistan for my oath taking. He was an ambassador of peace and was given amazing love and affection by the people of Pakistan. Those who targeted him are doing a great disservice to peace in the Subcontinent without peace our pole cannot progress.’’ he tweeted.

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August 21, 2018

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