PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Police in northwestern Pakistan on Monday arrested six people accused of gunning down a Sikh political figure, attributing the killing to rivalry rather than a Taliban attack, as the militants had claimed.
Gunmen shot and killed Soran Singh, a prominent leader of Pakistan’s tiny Sikh religious minority and a lawmaker from cricket legend Imran Khan’s opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, outside his home in the town of Buner on Friday.
“We arrested six people, including a member of the Sikh community, Buldev Singh,” Azad Khan, a senior police official, told reporters in Peshawar, capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
“During initial investigations, Buldev Singh and other people acknowledged their involvement in the murder of Soran Singh.”
The killing followed a dispute over the distribution of party tickets in local elections, Khan said. Soran Singh was a senior member of Khan’s party and an adviser to the provincial chief minister on minority affairs.
“Soran Singh reportedly refused a party ticket to Buldev Singh, which enraged him and he hired assassins to kill Soran Singh,” the police official added.
Reuters was not able to immediately reach representatives of Buldev Singh’s family for comment.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility soon after the shooting, saying they would continue attacks until their strict interpretation of Islamic law was enforced across Pakistan.
Police official Khan rejected that claim as false. “This is totally wrong,” he said. “The Taliban aren’t behind this murder.”
Religious minorities make up about two percent of Pakistan’s population of 190 million, government data show, and religiously motivated violence against them has become increasingly common.
An Easter Sunday bombing targeting Christians in a public park in Lahore killed 72 people last month.
Writing by Asad Hashim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez