Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi scored a “self-goal” by claiming that Prime Minister Imran Khan had tricked India over the Kartarpur corridor, government sources said in New Delhi on Friday.
“It [Mr. Qureshi’s remark] was intended to score a point but it turned out to be a self-goal that gives away Pakistan’s real intention in organising the [Kartarpur] event,” an official told The Hindu .
Mr. Qureshi’s statement at a function on Thursday claiming that Mr. Khan had “bowled a googly” became the latest in a series of contradictory messages that marked the otherwise cordial photo-opportunity afforded by the start of work on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor this week. PM Imran Khan was joined by Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa, and Ministers from India — Harsimrat Badal, Hardeep Puri and Navjot Sidhu, for the foundation laying ceremony for the six-kilometre corridor.
“The world watched, Pakistan watched, that PM Imran Khan bowled a googly at Kartarpur. As a result of the googly, India, that had refused to engage with Pakistan, had to send two ministers to Pakistan to engage. We are happy they came, as ours is a message of peace,” Mr. Qureshi had told an audience of lawmakers and ruling party supporters at a function to mark 100 days of the Khan government in Islamabad on Thursday.
Only hours earlier, Mr. Qureshi had addressed a group of Indian journalists invited to Pakistan to cover the Kartarpur ceremony, and said just the opposite. “Let me clarify,” Mr. Qureshi had said, “The Kartarpur gesture, believe me, had no googly hidden in it.”
Mr. Qureshi had also said it was Pakistan’s failing economy that was the motivator for the “consensus for peace with India” in the country. “Let me point out why there’s support for the entire [engagement process]: because we have come on a mandate to fix the economy. We have inherited a difficult economic situation where the fiscal deficit is close to 6.6%, the trade deficit was historic and growth rate is abysmal. So the challenge….is the economy,” he had said.
Pakistan’s debt repayment crisis, the cancellation of about $3 billion in U.S. assistance over the past year as well as financial strictures arising from the “greylisting” of the country by the Financial Action Task Force, are all part of the challenge as well.
The Ministry of External Affairs didn’t comment officially on the latest remarks by the Pakistani foreign minister, although it had protested PM Khan’s reference to Kashmir during his speech at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor earlier, calling it an attempt to “politicise a pious event.”
Pakistani foreign office officials said that the MEA’s statement failed to account for comments made by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, hitting out directly at the Pakistani Army Chief General Bajwa at the groundbreaking ceremony on the Indian side in Dera Baba Nanak on Monday. “Was that not an attempt to politicise the pious occasion as well,” asked one official.
On her own return from Pakistan, Union Minister Harsimrat Badal’s comments calling Congress minister Navjot Singh Sidhu a “traitor” and demanding that he be dismissed by the Congress party for having gone to Pakistan, added to the contradictory and noisy messaging that marked the week when the Kartarpur corridor, called a “corridor of peace” by leaders on both sides, was started.