Pakistan’s Former Prime Minister Imran Khan Injured in Assassination Attempt During Protest March
Khan blames country’s prime minister, interior minister and a senior military official for the attack by an unidentified assailant that injured 8 and killed 1
[Islamabad] Former prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, was injured in an assassination attempt on Thursday during a protest rally. The shooter was confronted by another man as he fired, which likely saved Khan’s life.
The incident occurred in Wazirabad city in the eastern Punjab province, a week after Khan and hundreds of thousands of his supporters set off on a march from the city of Lahore, Punjab‘s provincial capital, to the capital.
Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party are demanding that the government call early general elections.
According to local media, a gunman opened fire at the container truck Khan was riding in, wounding him and some of his close aides.
As the gunman started firing, one of the march activists pushed away the pistol and grabbed him.
The sudden firing caused panic and a stampede in the massive crowd, while security personnel at the scene immediately detained the attacker.
According to an official report, during the incident, 13 workers for Khan’s PTI party in and around the container truck came under fire.
According to the official report: “The bullet that hit Imran Khan crossed the lower part of his right leg, while among the other leaders, Ahmed Nasir Chattha was injured in both legs, Zahid Khan was injured in his arm and leg, and two workers were shot in the stomach, while Senator Faisal Javed Khan, politician Ali Haider Zaidi, politician Imran Ismail, S.A. Hameed, and Yousuf Khan sustained minor injuries.”
A party worker reportedly was killed in the attack.
At the start of a long march on Thursday, Khan urged the nation to stand up for their right to receive justice.
Addressing march participants on the Rawal Pindi bypass in Gujranwala, Khan said that Pakistan cannot progress until the rule of law prevails for everyone. “It’s better to die than become slaves,” he asserted.
PTI senior leader and former federal minister Asad Umar told The Media Line, that “Imran Khan was immediately taken to the hospital in Lahore, and he is safe; a bullet hit him in the right leg.”
Khalid Raja, a local reporter, told The Media Line that the gunman was walking alongside Khan’s container truck, and his indiscriminate firing resulted in a stampede. Eight people were injured and 1 person was killed in the gunfire, according to Raja.
All the injured were taken to the hospital and received medical assistance. They are all out of danger, according to Raja.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
An intelligence official, who was on duty during the march, told The Media Line that it was a “targeted attack” and that the gunman “aimed from below at an angle that would have hit Khan in the head, but fortunately the bullet hit him in the leg.”
He further told The Media Line that “the assailant seems to be an expert shooter.” He added that there was a “clear burst of an AK-47 followed by a pause and then shots of a pistol were heard at the spot.”
The official also said that “evidence also seems to indicate that the assailant was not alone but was accompanied by a backup assailant,” and that “the bravery of the young party workers accompanying Imran Khan’s container truck not only saved their leader but also prevented more fatalities.”
The official did not say whether the attacker’s accomplice also was arrested.
Massive protests erupted across the country to condemn the attack on the charismatic cricketer-turned-politician.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the attack and demanded an immediate report on the incident.
He also directed the home minister to seek an immediate report from the inspector general of the Punjab police and the Punjab chief secretary.
Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a statement that Sharif canceled a conference on his recent visit to China after hearing about the attack on Khan.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Armed Forces also “highly condemned” the incident.
According to a statement from the Armed Forces Media Wing, “the military offered sincere prayers for the precious life lost and the speedy recovery and well-being of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and all those injured in this unfortunate incident.”
Khan has quietly continued to criticize the army establishment since he left power in April 2022.
The Pakistan Armed Forces responded to Khan’s nonstop criticism on October 27, when the country’s top spymaster and director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Nadeem Anjum, along with the director general of the Armed Forces Media Wing, Lt. Gen. Babar Iftikhar, rejected the allegations against the institution and reiterated that the army as an institution “has decided that it will work within constitutional limits and not play a political role.”
Khan recently claimed in a statement that his life was in danger and that he had recorded a video in which he revealed the names of all those who colluded against him.
While addressing a massive gathering in Sialkot city in May, Khan stated that “there is a conspiracy devised against me in closed rooms and outside the country, and they want my life.”
“I knew of this conspiracy so I have recorded a video and kept it in a secure place. If something happens to me then this video will be produced in front of the nation. In it, whoever has conspired against me, whoever is complicit since last summer, I have named everyone,” Khan added.
PTI Secretary-General Asad Umar said on Thursday night in a video statement that “party chairman Imran Khan suspects, three people – Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and a senior military official are behind the assassination attempt on him.”
“Imran Khan has said that he had the information beforehand that these people might be involved in the assassination attempt on him,” he added.
Umar said that all three of the people named by Khan “should be removed from their offices.”
Umar was joined in the statement by party leader Mian Aslam Iqbal.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the former federal interior minister, told The Media Line that “this was a pre-planned systematic attempt to kill Imran Khan.”
Ahmed further told The Media Line that the attack “was a nefarious plot to push the country toward a worst civil war.”
Ahmed alleged that “Rana Sana Ullah, the federal interior minister, is a psychosomatic person, he is regularly giving public statements for the past several days that ‘we will crush Khan.’”
He said that the current government has “drowned the country’s economy and now they are afraid of Khan’s long march towards Islamabad.”
Meanwhile, Khan’s ex-wife, Jemima Goldsmith, said she was thankful that Khan survived the assassination attempt.
She tweeted that the reports of the attack were “the news we dread,” adding: “Thank God he’s okay. And thank you from his sons to the heroic man in the crowd who tackled the gunman.”