Cannot trust Pak intent behind Kartarpur, says Capt Amarinder, urging caution

24

LASHES OUT AT BJP FOR POLITICISING ARMED FORCES, POINTS OUT CONGRESS NEVER USED 1965 & 1971 TO PROMTOE POLITICAL AGENDA

PROMISES LOKPAL/CONFLICT OF INTEREST BILLS IN NEXT SESSION, SAYS CONGRESS HAS NO OPPOSITION FOR LS POLLS

Chandigarh, March 16-  Making it clear that he did not trust Pakistan’s intent behind opening the Kartarpur Corridor, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday said their agenda was nefarious and political, and aimed at exploiting the sentiments of the Sikhs.

Underlining the need to keep a close watch on the Corridor, the Chief Minister said while he was all for the Corridor, which was a matter of devotion for the Sikhs, there was need to exercise caution. Pakistan is doing it with a different intent, which is not at all aimed at promoting peace, he told a press conference to mark two years of his government.

India’s agenda is religious but theirs is totally disruptive, said the Chief Minister, citing Referendum 2020 as an example of ISI’s attempts to exploiting Sikh sentiments to divide and destabilize Punjab, and in fact the entire nation. While Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan talks of peace, their Army Chief General Bajwa continues to promote his evil designs, Captain Amarinder warned, adding that the number of ISI-backed terror modules busted in Punjab in recent months indicated their true intent. The grenades used in Maqsudan and Pathankot attacks were of Pak origin, he added.

In response to a question, the Chief Minister said the number of devotees proposed by Islamabad to be allowed to pass the Corridor was not at all sufficient and he wanted at least 15,000 pilgrims to be permitted to visit the historic gurdwara through the Corridor every day. He reiterated his demand for `khule darshan’ at the Kartarpur gurdwara, questioning the rationale behind having a Corridor at all if the need for passport and visa was still there. Some identification was, of course, needed, but there was no need for passport etc, he said, adding that such requirement would deprive poor people of darshan.

Asked if the recent air strikes by the Indian Air Force would benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the coming elections, Captain Amarinder said any government of the day, including the Congress, would have retaliated after the Pulwama attack. The government just did its job, which Congress governments had done in the past too, he said, adding that the Modi government had simply coined a new phrase – surgical strikes – for such action.

Jawans and officers are dying every day, said the Chief Minister, while lashing out at the BJP for politicization of the armed forces, and their use for promoting political interests. The Congress never politicized the 1965 or the 1971 wars, he said, adding, “we have always put the nation above political interests.”

Asked about the conflict of interest and Lokpal Bills, as promised by his government, Captain Amarinder said the draft was ready and would cover everyone, right from CM downwards. The Bills would be placed before the House in the next session. Only four legislations that his government had promised were pending and would be implemented soon, said the Chief Minister. The new policy on sand mining was sub-judice and hence had to be put in abeyance for the time being, he added.

On the recommendations of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill Commission probing the false cases registered under the former regime, the Chief Minister said those were being implemented in order to reverse the excesses perpetrated by the Akalis and BJP.

Trashing Sukhpal Khaira’s allegation that the AG was arranging bail for those accused in the Behbal Kalan firing case, the Chief Minister said Khaira was in the habit of talking for the sake of talking. The investigations of the SIT set up in the matter were close to completion and all its findings would be sent to courts for action, irrespective of who is named by the agency.

In fact, none of the opposition leaders had any constructive agenda, he said, adding that the Congress had no opposition in the state because of the large-scale development work being done by his government. SAD president Sukhbir Badal’s attempts to woo the Deras ahead of the polls also won’t help his party, which was going to be wiped out from the state, he said, adding that Sukhbir’s visits to the Deras showed his fear in the face of imminent defeat in the LS polls.

The Chief Minister rejected charges of babu rule in Punjab as `absolutely incorrect’ and said the elected representatives had full say in the state’s affairs. The ministers were working independently, with no interference even from him, said Captain Amarinder, adding that he only took policy decisions and did not dictate to the ministers in any way.

His government was, in fact, working hard to correct things on all fronts, with restoration of law and order its biggest achievement, said the Chief Minister, adding that without lasting peace, there could be no progress.

On issues concerning the NRIs of the state, Captain Amarinder said he had already written to the High Court Chief Justice to create special courts for trying their cases, in addition to cases relating to serving soldiers and rape cases. The Chief Justice had responded positively, he said, expressing the confidence that the proposal would be accepted and implemented soon.

Asked about the Amritsar candidature, the Chief Minister said he and other party leaders had never approached former Prime Minister Dr Manmoah Singh with a proposal asking him to contest. They had only gone to brief him about the party affairs in the state, he added adding that the former prime minister had made his intent of not contesting the polls due to health reasons earlier only