Amid photo row, SGPC president returns from Pakistan
Amritsar : Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Gobind Singh Longowal returned from Pakistan on Friday amid a controversy over his photograph with pro-Khalistan Gopal Singh Chawla in Pakistan.
Longowal told media after his return that they (SGPC functionaries) were invited by the Pakistan government and offered seats assigned to them.
"I did not know Chawla and don't recognize him," he said, down-playing the controversy over his photograph with Chawla at the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor in Pakistan on Nov 28.
Longowal said he will be visiting Pakistan again in January next year to hold discussions with the Pakistan government and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) in connection with the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev to be held in November next year.
The birth place of Guru Nanak Dev, Nanakana Sahib, is near Lahore in Pakistan.
Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who returned from Pakistan on Thursday, had also down-played the issue of his photographs with Chawla.
"Everyday, there were at least 10,000 people taking photos with me. I don't know who is Chawla and Cheema," Sidhu had claimed.
Chawla, who lives in Pakistan, is known for his pro-Khalistan rant and activities. He has been photographed earlier with terrorist Hafiz Saeed.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan did the ground breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor, which will allow people from India to have visa-free access to Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, on Wednesday.
It was at the Kartarpur gurdwara, which is located around 2km from the India-Pakistan border and is situated right opposite the border belt in Dera Baba Nanak in Indian's Punjab's Gurdaspur district, that Sikhism founder, Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539), spent 18 years of his life till he died in 1539.
The gurdwara, which fell in Pakistan territory following the Partition of India in August 1947, has big significance in Sikh religion and history.
Even since Partition, Sikhs have been offering prayers near the international border while watching the gurdwara from a distance.