Peshawar: A prominent Sikh politician in Pakistan who was gunned down last week was killed by contract killers hired by his miffed Hindu rival after he failed to secure a ticket for elections in 2013, police said today, days after Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the murder.
Baldev Kumar, a Swat district councilor and minority leader of Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was arrested by the police for his alleged role in the murder of Dr Sardar Sooran Singh, also of the same party in the troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 52-year-old Singh was the Special Assistant to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister on Minority Affairs.
Kumar hired contract killers by promising them Rs one million. He was miffed after being overlooked for the ticket which was given to Singh who was comparatively new entrant to the PTI, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Malakand Division Azad Khan said at a press conference.
He said that six people have been arrested in connection with SIngh’s murder including two assassins and Kumar, the alleged mastermind. “Baldev Kumar planned Singh’s killing with help of his friend Muhammad Alam, former-nazim from Shangla. Alam fixed his killing plan with Saeed Jan and promised Rs one million for killing and Rs two lakh were paid in advance.
“Saeed Jan hired Mukhtar and Behroz Khan and sent them Buner’s Pir Baba for targeting him. Mukhtar and Behroz Khan attacked Sooran Singh on last Friday at his doorstep in the Pir Baba area of Buner after returning from a funeral,” the police officer said. He said that soon after the murder, police received information and arrested the attackers. During interrogation, the accused confessed to have killed Singh in lieu of money, saying they were hired by Saeed Jan.
The accused’s confession led to the arrest of Saeed Jan, who, during interrogation, said that he planned the killing after being asked by Muhammad Alam and Kumar, the DIG said.
Kumar targeted Singh after he could not get a party ticket for provincial assembly on reserved seats for minority for 2013 elections. PTI gave ticket to Singh, who had joined the party in 2011 and elected general secretary of minorities’ wing of the party after intra-party elections, Khan said. Kumar and Singh were also business partners, Khan said while rejecting the claims by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that they had killed Singh.
The TTP in a statement had said that sharp shooter of Special Task Force of TTP “successfully” targeted Sardar Sooran Singh in his home district Buner.
A case was registered on the complaint of Singh’s son. The last rites of Singh were held in Buner district on Saturday. A large number of people from PTI and other political parties’ activists attended the funeral.
Singh’s murder was widely condemned by fellow politicians and rights activists.
Cricketer-turned-politician Khan, whose PTI party rules the restive northwestern province, had asked his government to set up an inquiry commission to probe the assassination.
Singh was a doctor, TV anchor and politician. Before joining PTI in 2011, Singh was a member of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan for nine years. Meanwhile, a Sikh delegation led by Singh’s cousin Roshan Singh called on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General (IG) Police Nasir Khan Durrani and expressed satisfaction over the arrest of killers within three hours after the assassination.
The delegation announced to hold a function in recognition of the police’s performance for their encouragement.
IG Durrani termed the assassination of Singh a huge loss for the whole country especially for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, saying that people were deprived of an affectionate, brave and sincere committed leader and the vacuum created due to his loss will take long time to be filled.