Sidhu downplays row over sitting next to PoK 'president' at Imran Khan's swearing-in

The Congress leader and Punjab Minister, during his visit to Pakistan, was seen hugging the neighbouring country's Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Sidhu downplays row over sitting next to PoK 'president' at Imran Khan's swearing-in

New Delhi: Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has been facing flak over his Pakistan visit to attend Imran Khan's swearing-in ceremony as the country's 22nd prime minister. Sidhu, who had arrived in Islamabad on Friday, returned to India on Sunday.

The Congress leader and Punjab Minister, during his visit to Pakistan, was seen hugging the neighbouring country's Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Following this, he was spotted sitting beside the President of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) at the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In a response to the row, Sidhu said, "If someone (Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa) comes to me and says that we belong to the same culture and we will open Kartarpur border on Guru Nanak Dev's 550th Prakash Parv, what else I could do?"

"If you're invited as a guest of honour somewhere, you sit wherever you are asked to. I was sitting somewhere else but they asked me to sit there," he added.

A controversy erupted after images of Sidhu hugging Gen Bajwa and sitting next to PoK president emerged. He giving interviews to the Pakistani media were later flashed on news channels.

Imran Khan's PTI emerged as the single largest party with 116 seats in July 25 elections. Its number increased to 125 after nine independent members joined it and final tally reached 158 after it was allotted 28 out of 60 seats reserved for women and five out of 10 seats reserved for minorities. 

Khan's government is the third consecutive democratic government in Pakistan since 2008 when military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf announced elections after serving as president from 2001 to 2008 following a bloodless coup in 1999.

The PPP formed the government in 2008, followed by the PML-N led by jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2013.

Pakistan's powerful military has ruled the country through various coups for nearly half of the country's history since independence in 1947. Recounting his journey of 22 years from a cricketer to a politician, Khan asserted that no "military dictator nurtured" him and he has reached this height with his own "struggle and accord."

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