Former PTI lawmaker Baldev Kumar is seeking political asylum in India and has accused the Imran Khan-led government of mistreating minorities in Pakistan.
Kumar is currently in India on a three-month visa for medical treatment of his 12-year-old daughter who is a Thalassemia major patient. In a press conference on Tuesday in Khanna, India, the former PTI lawmaker alleged that Pakistan was an "unsafe country".
"[Even] Muslims are not secure there [Pakistan], how can a Sikh like me be secure there?"
When a reporter said that "his party" [Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf] was in power in the country, he replied: "[Yes], my party is in power in the country [...] Prime Minister Imran Khan was talking about a 'new Pakistan' but the old one was better compared to this new Pakistan."
"Minorities are not safe in Pakistan, not at all," he claimed, also accusing the government of "playing politics" on the Kartarpur corridor.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, however, rejected Kumar's allegations of mistreatment of minorities under the PTI government.
In a video statement, Yousafzai said Kumar could live wherever he wanted but that his allegations of mistreatment of minorities were baseless and false.
"Baldev Kumar was on trial for the murder of our MPA Suran Singh. Although the court acquitted him [Kumar], the victim's family still accuses him of murder. However, it was their personal matter. When the incident happened, since then Kumar's party membership has been suspended, finished," said Yousafzai, adding: "He is not a part of the PTI."
Kumar, hailing from Barikot area in Swat, was arrested in the murder case of Soran Singh, the then special adviser to chief minister, on April 22, 2016. Being second in the list of PTI’s candidates on a reserved seat for minorities, Kumar was notified as MPA but PTI expelled him from the party and he was not allowed by members of the assembly to take oath.
'No connection with PTI'
Yousafzai, speaking on Kumar seeking asylum in India, said: "He can go [to India] a 100 times; he can live where he wants to, we have nothing to do with it. He has no connection with the PTI and the party has no room for criminals."
"As for his allegations about the mistreatment of minorities in Pakistan, they are unfounded and shameful," he said.
"All the minorities living in Pakistan enjoy freedom in all aspects of their lives, including religion.
"By the grace of God, all minorities in the country are happy [...] but if someone is facing a criminal case, neither the party nor the government can support [that person].
"As far as Kumar's application for asylum is concerned, it is a matter between him and the Indian government, we have nothing to do with it. But I completely reject his allegations about mistreatment of minorities. Minorities enjoy complete freedom in Pakistan," Yousafzai reiterated.
Meanwhile, Kumar's brother, Tilak, also held a press conference, countering his brother's claims regarding mistreatment of minorities: "Pakistan has bestowed us with respect and we are ready to sacrifice our life for the motherland," he said in Swat, adding there was no threat to minorities in the country.
According to Tilak, the family was trying to contact Kumar time and again but was unable to do so.
The brother said he suspected that Kumar was coerced to issue the statement.
Additional reporting by Murad Ali Khan