Perneet Singh, Tribune News Service
Amritsar, April 14. It was border bonhomie at its best. The inaugural ceremony of the country’s first Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Attari witnessed an excellent show of camaraderie among politicians of the two countries as they cracked jokes and recited couplets during their addresses at the gala function.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal set the ball rolling with his speech, which, though in English, was laced with humour in chaste Punjabi. He struck a nostalgic note by reminiscing about his college life that he spent in Lahore. He quoted a Punjabi saying “Jinhe Lahore nahi vekhya, oh jamya nahin (One who hasn’t seen Lahore is not born).”
Subsequently, he pointed towards the young generation saying “it means these people are not born yet” to drive home his point for liberal visa regime while at the same time evoking laughter from the gathering.
Badal recalled how his counterpart from Punjab in Pakistan Shahbaz Sharif gifted him ‘dumbas’ (Afghan sheep) when he visited Pakistan during the Vajpayee regime.
“Sharif Sahib those ‘dumbas’ have died and I want new ones now. I also wish I can bring cows of Sahiwal breed from Pakistan,” he told Sharif.
He said he longs for sumptuous Pakistani cuisine and hopes that the new liberal visa regime will usher in a day when one can have lunch at Amritsar and dinner at Lahore.
Sharif said he wished he could have brought with him a tiffin filled with “puri and chhole” and other delicacies liked by Badal.
Subsequently, he cracked a joke, which had the gathering bursting into peels of laughter.
Sharif concluded his speech with a couplet in Urdu and made it a point to translate it in Punjabi, so that everyone present there could understand it. Before taking his seat, he said: “Pakistan Zindabad, Hindustan Zindabad”.
In another goodwill gesture, the Pakistan Punjab CM supported Badal’s demand for opening Hussainiwala border in Ferozepur for trade between the two countries.
The two leaders also shared the pain and trauma caused by the Partition and subsequent miseries that Indo-Pakistan wars have brought to the two sides.
Commerce Minister Anand Sharma talked about sharing fruits of growth with the neighbouring country. His Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim concluded his address by chanting “Pak-Hind Dosti Zindabad.”