Imran Khan today said he was hit by four bullets in an assassination attempt by those ‘using the script of religious extremism’ in the town of Wazirabad, Pakistani Punjab on Thursday. “I learned the day before the attack that either in Wazirabad or Gujrat they were planning to kill me,” the former prime minister said in a video address, his first since the attack, from a hospital. from Lahore.
Wazirabad and Gujrat are towns on the route of his march from Lahore to Islamabad against the army-backed federal government.
Mr Khan gave details of what he called a scenario: “First, they accused me of blasphemy […] they made tapes and aired them and the PMLN (one of the ruling parties) screened it. I knew who was doing it.” He said it was easy to find out “because it’s a digital world.”
“So first it was projected that I was disrespecting religion and then their plan was what they did in Wazirabad […] that ‘a religious extremist killed Imran Khan’,” he said.
One of Mr Khan’s supporters died in the attack and at least 13 others, including leaders of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, were injured in Thursday’s shooting.
“I was hit by four balls,” said the former cricket captain, pointing post-surgery stitches on his calf, sitting in a wheelchair, wearing a blue hospital gown, a drip strapped to his arm and a cast on his leg, with the national flag in the background.
He said there were two shooters. Police have so far arrested a man who fired a pistol and two other “suspects”.
The arrested attacker told police on camera that he was acting alone: ”I was upset because he is misleading people and turning them away from the principles of Islam by claiming to be a prophet.” But Mr Khan denied the accusation and blamed key leaders specifically: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Homeland Security Minister Rana Sanaullah and Major General Faisal Naseer, who heads the intelligence agency ISI.
“If something happens…”
“Four people plotted to kill me”, he said today, “I made a video in which I named these people and I hid it abroad”, adding that it would be published if anything untoward happened to it.
“How did I find out that they were plotting this? Insiders told me,” Mr Khan said in today’s video, “On the eve of Wazirabad, they made the plan seeing the number of people increase… [They were] using the script of religious extremism,” he said, comparing it to how former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was killed in 2011 by a religious extremist.
The government denied any role and promised a fair investigation.
The attack brought back chilling memories of how another former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated at a rally in 2007. Her killing remains shrouded in mystery as she campaigned ahead of an election.
Imran Khan has been pushing for snap polls since his government fell seven months ago after losing the confidence of the defense establishment. He is since campaign against the army and “interference” by the intelligence agency ISI which “undermined democracy by installing a puppet government”.
Once considered an army ‘choice’, the 70-year-old – known for his cunning moves on the pitch as a World Cup-winning cricketing star – served around four years as prime minister until last April.
He began his ‘long march’ in October last week to demand the resignation of the new government formed by his two main opponents who are otherwise rivals for each other, the Pakistan Muslim League of Sharifs (PML-N ) and the Bhutto People’s Party of Pakistan (PPP).