Pakistan: Ex-Premier Khan injured in firing during ‘long march’
By Islamuddin Sajid, Aamir Latif and Kiran Butt
ISLAMABAD, LAHORE, KARACHI, Pakistan (AA): Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was injured in a gun attack during his ‘long march’ protest towards Islamabad, police and officials said.
A gunman opened fire at a campaign truck carrying Khan in the Wazirabad district in the eastern Punjab province, wounding him in the leg. He was shifted to a hospital in Lahore and is said to be in a stable condition.
The firing also left at least one person dead and 13 others injured, police and hospital officials said.
“Imran Khan got a minor injury as bullets hit his both legs,” Yasmin Rashid, a senior leader of Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), said. “Thanks to Allah as Khan is safe,” she added.
“Imran Khan has been shifted to Lahore and his condition is out of danger,” Asad Umar, a former federal minister, also confirmed.
Footage showed a suspected gunman being taken down by another man as he tries to fire his gun, said to be a 9mm automatic weapon. The video shows a panicky situation in which the suspect tries to escape, but some people chased him down and apprehended him.
Targeted attack, condemnations
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry called the firing “a targeted attack” on Khan and warned: “We will take revenge.”
“We are peaceful people but today they attacked us and we will take revenge,” Chaudhry told the long march’s participants.
“It was a well planned assassination attempt on Imran Khan, the assassin planned to kill Imran khan and leadership of PTI, it was not 9 MM it was burst from automatic weapon, no two opinions about that it was narrow escape,” he later stated on Twitter.
In another tweet, Chaudhry said protests will continue until early elections are called, and a party meeting has been summoned in Lahore on Friday.
Various leaders including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, as well as Pakistan’s military, condemned the attack and wished speedy recovery to Khan and others injured in the attack.
“I condemn the incident of firing on PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the strongest words. I have directed Interior Minister for an immediate report on the incident. I pray for the recovery and health of PTI chairman & other injured people,” Sharif tweeted.
“Federal government will extend all support necessary to Punjab govt for security & investigation. Violence should have no place in our country’s politics,” he added.
“Heinous assassination attempt on the brave @ImranKhanPTI I thank Allah that he is safe but injured with few bullets in his leg & hopefully non-critical. This attack is shocking, alarming, disgraceful, deceitful & cowardly. May Allah give him health & to all those injured,” said President Arif Alvi.
‘Khan is misleading the people’
In a confession video later released by the police, the suspected attacker said he attacked Khan because “he is misleading the people.”
He said he acted alone and had decided to kill Khan when he began his protest last week from Lahore.
However, some PTI leaders questioned the claims, saying it could be a cover-up.
“It’s not as simple as the confession. Stop treating the general public as if they are idiots. Assassins have been hired. In the past, suicide bombers have been hired in exchange for money,” said Hammad Azhar, the PTI’s Punjab province president.
In 2007, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was attacked during a homecoming rally in Karachi, two months before her assassination in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh.
In 1951, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was also assassinated in the same park.
Khan blames Sharif, senior officials behind attack
Meanwhile, Khan accused the country’s three top officials, including Prime Minister Sharif, of being behind the assassination attempt on him.
In a video message, Umar, the party’s secretary general, said Khan told him he is sure Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and an official from the country’s premier intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI, are involved.
“The three persons should be removed from their posts, and if they are not, there will be a countrywide protest. Pakistan cannot continue in this manner.” he went on to say.
Mian Aslam Iqbal, another PTI leader, said they will lodge a case against the three persons.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, an ally of the PTI, suspended the local police officers accused of leaking the suspected attacker’s confessional statement to the media.
Elahi ordered an inquiry and disciplinary action against the officers, said a statement from the chief minister’s office.
Earlier, PTI leaders, including Shireen Mazari and Farrukh Habib, also blamed Sanaullah for the attack.
Since his ouster in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April, Khan has held a series of anti-government rallies and has alleged that he was removed a in US-sponsored conspiracy. The new premier and Washington have denied the claims.
Sharif’s government says there would be no early vote, and the next elections will be held according to schedule, in late 2023.
Protests across Pakistan
Meanwhile, protests erupted across Pakistan on Thursday after an assassination attempt on Imran Khan,
Thousands of Khan’s supporters took to the streets to protest the attack in small and major cities across the country, including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujranwala and Peshawar.
Footage aired on local broadcasters showed angry protesters burning old tyres and blocking roads, effectively halting traffic in several cities.
Hundreds of charged protesters blocked the main Grand Truck Road, which connects northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkwa province to northeastern Punjab, by burning tyres at different points.
In Karachi, the country’s commercial capital, hundreds of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters blocked different roads, demanding the arrest of the culprits behind the assassination attempt.
Columns of flames and smoke could be seen billowing upwards as the protesters burned tyres, and other scraps while chanting anti-government slogans.
“Imran Khan is our red-line,” the protesters chanted in unison as police personnel in riot gear stood by.
Meanwhile, former minister and PTI senior official Fawad Chaudhry rejected the purported confession of the attacker, contending that “the matter is not that simple.”
In a statement, he claimed that suicide bombers were hired to kill politicians in the past. “Stop considering the people fools,” he added.
[Photo: Supporters of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, take part in a protest against the assassination attempt on him at Grand Trunk Road in Peshawar on November 03, 2022. Photojournalist: Hussain Ali/AA]
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