Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan stable after shooting
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is stable after being shot and wounded during a protest march, a senior leader from his party said Friday.
Khan’s protest march and rallies were peaceful until Thursday afternoon’s attack, raising concerns about growing political instability in Pakistan, a country with a history of political violence and assassinations.
One of Khan’s supporters was killed and 13 others, including two lawmakers, were wounded in the attack.
“There is no doubt about it,” said Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader from Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party. “We are convinced that it was a well-planned assassination attempt on Pakistan’s most popular leader, Imran Khan, who is now in stable condition at the Shaukat Khanum hospital in Lahore after undergoing surgery there.”
He said the party leadership was meeting in Lahore later Friday.
“We will announce today exactly when our march will resume from Wazirabad,” Chaudhry told the Associated Press. He provided no further details, but in a brief statement Khan’s party urged supporters to hold nationwide rallies to condemn the shooting.
The terrorism charges against the former premier and cricket star escalate political tensions as he holds mass rallies in a bid to return to office.
Asad Umar, a senior figure from Khan’s party, blamed the shooting on Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the interior minister and an army general without offering any evidence.
The government called the allegation baseless, saying it had ordered a high-level investigation and that the attacker, who was arrested at the scene, is being questioned.
Police on Thursday released a video showing the suspect saying that he carried out the shooting and acted alone. Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif on Friday said the Punjab provincial government had suspended the police officials who released the video to the media.
The attack took place as the former cricket star-turned-politician was traveling in a large protest convoy of trucks and cars toward Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Video shows him and his team ducking for cover on top of a vehicle as gunfire rings out.
The 33-year-old son of assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says his country has resumed engagement with the U.S. after years of strained relations.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said some political elements from Khan’s party were trying to create chaos in the country following the attack.
The minister’s comments came after scores of Khan’s supporters demonstrated in various parts of the country, with some chanting slogans against the military and vowing to avenge the attack. The minister called the alleged gunman a “religious extremist” who had accused the ex-premier of comparing himself to prophets in some of his recent public speeches.
Khan, 70, is likely to be allowed to go home soon, according to Faisal Sultan, who is heading the team of doctors treating him. Sultan told reporters Thursday that Khan’s surgery lasted two hours, and he had a bullet wound in his right leg.
Khan maintains that his April ouster from parliament was unlawful and a conspiracy orchestrated by his political opponents and the United States, an allegation denied by Sharif and Washington.
Khan wants the government to announce snap elections. Accompanied by thousands of supporters, he led the protest march from Lahore beginning Oct. 28, saying his protest would continue until his demands were accepted. Sharif’s administration says elections will take place as scheduled in 2023.
His supporters rallied overnight in different parts of the country after the shooting.
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