New Delhi, Apr 5: Hours after a Jodhpur court convicted actor Salman Khan in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case, Pakistan’s foreign minister Khawaja Asif tried to give a communal angle to the court’s verdict. Asif said Salman Khan was jailed because he is a Muslim. In a veiled reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the minister said had Salman belonged to the ruling party, the court would not have given him such harsh punishment.

“Salman Khan has been sentenced because he is a minority,” Khwaja Asif told Pakistan-based channel Geo TV. “Maybe if he belonged to the religion of the ruling party of India he would not have been given such a harsh sentence and the court might have been lenient with him,” he added. The minister went on to say that the conviction of Salman in the blackbuck poaching case shows minorities are mistreated in India.

“To sentence him in a case that is twenty years old goes on to show that lives of those who are Muslims, untouchables or Christians are not valued in India,” Asif claimed. Salman, 52, was found guilty under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 for killing two blackbucks, hunting of which is prohibited by law. The hunting happened in Kankani village near Jodhpur on October 1-2, 1998, during the shooting of film Hum Saath Saath Hain.

Salman was taken to the Jodhpur Central Jail where he will spend at least a night in barrack number one. The prison houses rape-accused Asaram Bapu, Bhanwari Devi murder accused Malkhan Singh Vishnoi and Shambhu Lal Regar, arrested for killing a Muslim and blatantly filming the act. While Salman was convicted, other four co-accused stars — Sonali Bendre, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu and Neelam — were acquitted of all charges.

Salman has sought bail but his application will be heard on Friday morning in the Jodhpur sessions court. If the bail does not come through, he will have to stay in jail for at least three more days as the weekend follows. This is the fourth time Salman was sent to Jodhpur jail. Earlier, he spent 18 days in the jail at different times in 1998, 2006 and 2007 — all in poaching cases. Every time, he was released on bail.