Pakistan’s Imran Khan shot during protest, blames top government officials

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ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s leading opposition figure, Imran Khan, is accusing top government officials of orchestrating an attack Thursday in which he was shot in the leg and slightly injured during a protest march, party officials said.

A gunman opened fire on a truck carrying the former prime minister and other party officials. The attack took place near the eastern Pakistani city of Wazirabad, where hundreds of Khan’s supporters were marching.

In a statement to local broadcasters, Asad Umar, a senior leader of Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said in a statement to local broadcasters that “they have already received some information and can say with authority” that Pakistan’s prime minister, interior minister and a senior Pakistani intelligence officer were behind the attack. .

“Khan demands that these three be removed from their offices,” Omar said in comments to local broadcasters. If they are not sacked, there will be a nationwide agitation. We will not allow Pakistan to behave like this. Our agitation will continue until these three are dismissed.

Home Minister Rana Sanaullah has said that these allegations are baseless. “They have no evidence and are only making these false allegations for their political gain,” he said. Sanaullah said Khan’s party was spreading “extremist ideas” which was a fresh backlash against Khan and his supporters.

“Remember, you too can be the target of that hatred,” he said. “Please stop this, it will only invite more violence.”

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the firing in a statement on Thursday and ordered an inquiry.

Video footage of the attack released by Khan’s office shows party leaders ducking for cover on top of a bus as shots erupt as music blares from the crowd.

“Khan was hit in the leg, but his condition is stable,” Omar told local Pakistani broadcaster ARY News. He said that the former leader is undergoing medical treatment in Lahore. “Five to six other party leaders who were on top of the truck with Khan were also injured. One person is in critical condition,” he said.

The attack has led to increased hostility between Khan and the Pakistani government. Khan’s supporters and members of his party are describing it as an assassination attempt, accusing Pakistan’s leadership of trying to politicize the shooting and foment unrest.

In a video confession released by local police, the alleged shooter said he acted alone and did not mention a political motive for the attack. An unnamed man in the video said he shot Khan because loud music was playing during the procession during Muslim prayers, an act considered disrespectful by many conservative Muslims.

“I tried to kill him. I really tried to kill him, only and only Imran Khan and no one else,” the man said in a video aired by several Pakistani news outlets. “It was a sudden decision on my part,” he said, adding that it was not a planned attack. “I have no one behind me and no one with me. I was acting alone and no one came with me.”

Addressing the nation, Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb condemned the incident and called for calm.

“The shooter has given reasons why he tried to kill Khan and so there is no need to politicize the case,” she said. She called the allegations of attempted murder “extremely unfortunate” and said, “Please refrain from such irresponsible statements until the investigation is complete.”

Khan was ousted in a no-confidence motion this year, but has since been building popular support across the country with mass rallies calling government officials corrupt and foreign puppets.

Khan marched to the country’s capital Islamabad last week to demand early elections. He vowed that the march would culminate in the biggest demonstration in Pakistan’s history.

Pakistan’s ban on Imran Khan from politics has sparked unrest

Pressure on the Pakistani government has increased as Khan’s popular protest movement has grown. Several legal cases have been filed against him under Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act. On Friday, Pakistan’s intelligence chief made a rare public statement accusing Khan of seeking “illegal and unconstitutional” support from the military.

Lt. Gen. Nadeem Anjum, who is rarely seen in public, announced the allegations in a heated press conference. He said Khan sought help from the military during his time in power but did not specify what Khan requested.

Khan’s party denied any wrongdoing.

Pakistan’s military is considered the country’s most powerful force, but senior security forces leaders rarely publicly weigh in on politics.

George reported from Kabul.

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