The son of a murdered Pakistani legislator has appealed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to give asylum to a Sikh man who was named as an accused in his father’s murder but was later acquitted. The man, Baldev Kumar (43), also a former legislator from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the neighbouring country, has sought asylum citing “atrocities on minorities in Pakistan” and claiming that he was “framed and implicated” in the murder case of his colleague Dr Soran Singh who was “actually murdered by Islamic extremists”.
Ajay Singh (19), son of Soran Singh, speaking to The Indian Express from Swat Valley, said that since Indian PM Modi always speaks against terrorism, he is hoping for justice and that India will not shield a murder accused booked under the anti-terrorism Act of Pakistan. He said that though Kumar was acquitted by an anti-terrorism court in 2018 in his father’s murder case, his appeal against him in Peshawar High Court is still pending and India must send Kumar back to Pakistan to face the law.
Kumar came to India last month on three-month visa and is currently living in Khanna of Punjab’s Ludhiana where his in-laws live. His wife Bhavna with their two children had arrived in India four months back.
A minister in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shaukat Ali Yusafzai had earlier said that PTI has no objection to Kumar seeking political asylum in India. Yusafzai had said Kumar has no connection with the PTI as his membership was suspended over alleged role in the assassination of Soran Singh, the special assistant to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister.
Soran Singh, who was nominated as PTI Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) from a minority-reserved seat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly in 2013, was shot on April 22, 2016. Within 24 hours, Pakistan Police claimed to have had arrested “main accused” and five others.
According to Pakistan Police, Kumar had allegedly paid Rs 10 lakh (in Pakistan currency) to contract killers as he wanted to be the MPA. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rules, winning parties nominate their members for minority-reserved seats and submit a preference list. The candidate named as number one in the list is nominated to the seat but in case he/she dies or seat is vacated due to any reason, the candidate named at number two is announced as the successor.
PTI had named Soran Singh at number one in 2013 and was thus nominated to the assembly.
After Soran Singh’s murder in April 2016, ECP issued a notification declaring Kumar, who was still in jail, as MPA. PTI had objected to the notification but ECP clarified that Kumar hadn’t been “convicted”. In April 2018, an anti-terrorism court acquitted Kumar of murder charges giving him “benefit of doubt” due to lack of evidence. By the time Kumar came out of jail, his term as MPA had almost ended.
Ajay Singh said that he is hoping for justice from Modi. “Kumar is booked under section 7 (act of terrorism leading to death of a person) of Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and section 302 (murder) of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in an FIR registered at Pir Baba police station of Buner. Our appeal against him and five other accused is now in Peshawar High Court and he has been summoned on September 30. We had filed the appeal last year in June after his acquittal. Indian PM talks against terrorism and thus he should not give asylum to a person booked under anti-terrorism law. We hope India will behave like a responsible country here.”
Demanding that Kumar be sent back to Pakistan immediately to face the law, Ajay Singh said, “He is doing a drama in India to gain sympathy saying that Sikhs are being troubled here. His motive is to evade the law. We believe and hope that Modi will not shield a murder accused,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kumar said that he has not received any summons from the High Court. “How did immigration officials grant me visa if I were still an accused? I had not received any summons from the High Court in Pakistan,” said Kumar, who claims to be a Sehajdhari Sikh.
“My colleague was murdered by Islamic terrorists who cannot tolerate Sikhs or Hindus living in Pakistan and I was framed. Tehreek-e-Taliban had even announced that they murdered Soran Singh but I was arrested and kept in jail for two years,” he said, adding, he will not go back to Pakistan as “my daughter Riya (11) is also undergoing treatment for thalassemia in India”.