A Sikh politician in Pakistan who was gunned down last week was murdered by hired assassins and not the Taliban, police said on Monday, adding that they had arrested his Hindu rival who ordered the hit.
Gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on Sardar Soran Singh’s car on Friday evening in the Buner district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where he was the minister for minority affairs, killing him on the spot.
The Pakistani Taliban, who are active in the region, claimed the killing the next day, sparking widespread condemnation from rights activists and fellow lawmakers.
Azad Khan, a senior local police official, disputed the claim.
“The Taliban’s claim is not true, he was killed because of a political dispute,” he said, adding that six people had been arrested in connection with the murder including two assassins and the alleged mastermind, named as Baldev Kumar.
Both Singh and Kumar were members of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf political party led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, which governs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to police official Khan, Kumar was angry that he had been overlooked in favour of Singh for a party ticket in the 2013 election, and had hoped that killing his rival would pave the way for him to become a lawmaker on the party’s quota for religious minorities.
The Pakistani Taliban routinely target minorities as part of their almost decade-long struggle to establish their rule over the country, and in 2011 gunned down Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who was federal minister for minority affairs.
But they are also known to fabricate some claims in order to exaggerate their strength.