New Delhi, Aug 19: Facing severe backlash from the Opposition for sitting beside President of PoK Masood Khan, Congress leader and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu on Sunday gave clarification saying that he was asked to sit there. Talking to news agency ANI, Sidhu said, “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 reached India after attending Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony. He had arrived in India via the Wagah border. (ALSO READ: Pakistan Army Chief Walked up to Navjot Singh Sidhu, Said, ‘We Want Peace’: Report)

The controversy started after the Pakistan government reportedly made Sidhu sit next to Masood Khan, Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) President, on Saturday in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony. At the event, the PTI chief was sworn-in as Pakistan’s 22nd Prime Minister as the PTI party won the election three weeks ago. 

Instead of making seating arrangements for Congress leader Sidhu with other foreign dignitaries, Sidhu was positioned next to Masood Khan in Aiwan-e-Sadr Hall of President’s House. Prior to the oath-taking ceremony, Sidhu and Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa were clicked hugging each other at the President’s House. (ALSO READ: Subramanian Swamy Calls Navjot Singh Sidhu Mentally Unstable)

Reacting on hugging Bajwa at PM Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony in Islamabad, Sidhu said, “If someone (Pak Army Chief General Bajwa) comes to me and says that we belong to the same culture and we’ll open Kartarpur border on Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th Prakash Parv, what else I could do?”

After the pictures of Sidhu and Bajwa’s hug had gone viral, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched a scathing attack on the Congress party leader’s visit to Pakistan and said that his visit was “no less than a crime”. “…cabinet minister in Punjab government went to Pakistan for the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan and acted in a certain way,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.

Congress Chief of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam Ahmed Mir had criticised the incident stating, “He (Navjot Singh Sidhu) is a responsible person and a minister. Only he can answer, but yes he could have avoided this (sitting next to PoK President Masood Khan at Imran Khan’s oath ceremony).

In the July 25 general elections, the PTI had emerged as the single largest party with 116 seats. The number increased to 158 in the NA after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued notifications of the successful candidates on the reserved seats for women and the minority community on August 11.