'10,000 Photos Were Clicked Every Day, Don't Know Chawla': Sidhu on Picture With Pro-Khalistan Leader
The photograph had led to a political storm, with the Shiromani Akali Dal asking the Punjab cabinet minister whether 'India is his priority or not'.
The photo with Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu posted by pro-Khalistan militant Gopal Singh Chawla on social media.
Attari (Amritsar): Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who landed in another controversy after posing for a picture with pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla, on Thursday said he was not aware of the identity of several people he got clicked with during his visit to Pakistan for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor.
"They showered so much love there. Every day ten thousand pictures were clicked. Among them who is Chawla or Cheema that I do not know," Sidhu said after returning from the neighbouring nation.
Chawla, the general secretary of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (PSGPC), on Thursday shared the photograph on his Facebook page. A known pro-Khalistan voice, he was also seen shaking hands with Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at the corridor ceremony.
Sidhu, who had earlier stirred a row by hugging Pakistan army chief General Bajwa, was strongly criticised by the opposition parties for the photograph, with the Shiromani Akali Dal asking the Punjab cabinet minister whether "India is his priority or not".
"There was a link between Gopal Chawla and a terrorist attack that took place in Amritsar (on Nirankari Bhavan), which is his (Sidhu's) constituency. If he shakes hands with him or do something with him, then Sidhu has to answer in order to clear whether country is his priority or something else," SAD president Sukhbir Badal said.
Badal said Sidhu should have known that Pakistan has been involved in pushing drugs into Punjab. "It is Gen Bajwa who is behind killing our youth with whom he shakes hands."
Taking a swipe at the Congress president, Badal said Rahul Gandhi has a "very good opportunity" to expand his party to Pakistan by making Sidhu the chief of the party's unit there.
However, Congress leader Raj Kumar Verka slammed the Akali Dal for attacking Sidhu and not taking action against Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Gobind Singh Longowal, whose photograph with Chawla has also appeared on social media. "I feel Sukhbir Badal, Badal family and BJP is suffering from Sidhu phobia. I think they chant Sidhu's name more than Baba (Guru) Nanak Dev," said Verka.
Chawla also reacted to the controversy, saying, “What is the big deal in this? I don't know why I am dragged into everything. Why such links are created…. I have no intention of creating any terror.”
Chawla is also believed to be close to JuD terrorist Hafiz Saeed and was clicked with the Mumbai attacks mastermind recently. His photo with Saeed is also in public domain.
The pro-Khalistani militant was also involved in a controversy wherein Indian diplomats were prevented from entering a Gurdwara in Lahore to meet Indian pilgrims who had travelled from New Delhi. He was also involved in pasting photos of ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’ outside gurdwaras in Pakistan when Sikh pilgrims from India visited the neighbouring country on Baisakhi.
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