- Former cricketer Imran Khan was shot in the shin
- “It was clearly an assassination attempt,” says an aide
- Khan was leading a march on Islamabad to demand snap elections
- Pakistan has a long history of political violence
LAHORE, Nov 3 (Reuters) – Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was shot in the shin on Thursday as his anti-government party protest convoy was attacked in the east of the country in what his collaborators described as a clear assassination attempt.
Khan, 70, ousted as prime minister in April, had been in a mile-long protest procession for six days, standing and waving to thousands of cheering supporters from the roof of a container truck when the beatings of fire rang out.
Several members of his convoy were injured in the attack in Wazirabad, nearly 200 km (120 miles) from Islamabad, and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said a suspect had been arrested.
“It was clearly an assassination attempt. Khan was hit but he is stable. There was a lot of bleeding,” Fawad Chaudhry, spokesman for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, told Reuters. (PTI) of Khan.
“If the shooter had not been caught by people there, the entire PTI leadership would have been wiped out.”
In a statement, the military called the shooting “highly condemnable”. Khan had accused the army of supporting the plan to oust him from power. Last week, the army held an unprecedented press conference to deny these allegations.
“I heard a burst of bullets after which I saw Imran Khan and his assistants falling on the truck,” witness Qazzafi Butt told Reuters.
“Later, a gunman fired a single shot but was caught by an activist from Khan’s party.”
In purported footage of the shooting, broadcast by multiple channels, a man with a handgun is grabbed from behind by one of the people at the rally. He then tries to flee.
TV channels showed an alleged shooter, who appeared to be in his 20s or 30s. He said he wanted to kill Khan and that he acted alone.
“He (Khan) was cheating people, and I couldn’t stand it,” the suspect said in the video. The Minister of Information confirmed that the images had been recorded by the police.
No one had yet been charged with the attack.
Khan had stirred up large crowds on his way to the capital Islamabad in a campaign to overthrow the government of his rival Shehbaz Sharif.
A member of Khan’s party said there were reports that one person had been killed in the attack.
Khan Chaudhry’s aide wrote on Twitter: “It was a well planned assassination attempt on Imran Khan, the assassin was planning to kill Imran Khan and the PTI leadership, it was not 9MM, he has been busted with an automatic weapon, no two opinions on that. was a narrow escape.”
PROTESTERS ON THE STREET
Pakistan has a long history of political violence. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007 in a gun and bomb attack after staging a campaign rally in the town of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad.
Her father and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in the same city in 1979 after being overthrown in a military coup.
Local media showed footage of Khan waving to the crowd after being evacuated from his vehicle amid people running and screaming at the shooting.
He was taken to hospital in Lahore as protesters swept through the streets in parts of the country and PTI leaders demanded justice.
PTI colleague Faisal Javed, who was also injured and had bloodstains on his clothes, told Geo TV from the hospital: “Several of our colleagues are injured. We have heard that one of them is dead.”
Prime Minister Sharif condemned the shooting and ordered an immediate investigation.
Since being ousted by a parliamentary vote, Khan has held rallies across Pakistan, stirring up opposition against a government struggling to pull the economy out of the crisis Khan’s administration left it in.
Khan had planned to drive the motor caravan slowly north on the Grand Trunk Road to Islamabad, attracting more support along the way before entering the capital.
“I want you all to participate. It’s not for politics or personal gain, or to overthrow the government…it’s to bring real freedom to the country,” Khan said in a video message on the eve of walking.
Additional reporting by Aftab Ahmed, Sudipto Ganguly and Tanvi Mehta; Written by Krishna N. Das; Editing by John Stonestreet and Nick Macfie
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