- Former cricketer Imran Khan shot in the shin
- “It was an obvious assassination attempt,” says assistant
- Khan led march to 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 when his anti-government protest convoy in the east of the country was attacked in what his aides say was an obvious assassination attempt.
Khan, 70, ousted as prime minister in April, spent six days in a mile-long protest procession, standing and waving to thousands of cheering supporters from the roof of a container truck as the shots rang out.
Several in 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 an obvious assassination attempt. Khan was hit, but he is stable. There was a lot of blood loss,” Fawad Chaudhry, a spokesman for Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, told Reuters.
“If the shooter hadn’t been stopped by people there, the entire PTI line would have been wiped out.”
In a statement, the military called the shooting “deeply reprehensible”. Khan had accused the military of supporting the plan to remove him from power. Last week, the military held an unprecedented press conference to deny the claims.
“I heard a burst of bullets and then I saw Imran Khan and his aides fall on the truck,” witness Qazzafi Butt told Reuters.
“Later, a gunman fired a single shot, but was grabbed by an activist from Khan’s party.”
In alleged multi-channel footage of the shooting, a man with a gun is grabbed from behind by one of the people at the rally. He then tries to flee.
TV channels showed a suspected gunman, who looked like he was in his twenties or thirties. He said he wanted to kill Khan and acted alone.
“He (Khan) misled the people and I couldn’t bear it,” the suspect said in the video. The Minister of Information confirms that the images were recorded by the police.
No one had yet been charged with the attack.
Khan had whipped up large crowds on his way to the capital Islamabad in a campaign to overthrow the government of rival Shehbaz Sharif.
A member of Khan’s party said there were reports that one person had been killed in the attack.
Khan aide Chaudhry wrote on Twitter: “It was a well-planned assassination attempt on Imran Khan, the assassin planned to kill Imran Khan and the leadership of PTI, it was not 9MM, it had burst out of 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 by a firearm and bomb after an election rally in the town of Rawalpindi, next to Islamabad.
Her father and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in the same city in 1979 after he was ousted in a military coup.
Local media showed footage of Khan waving to the crowd after being evacuated from his vehicle, amid running and screaming poplars after the shooting.
He was taken to hospital in Lahore as protesters poured into the streets in some parts of the country and PTI leaders demanded justice.
PTI colleague Faisal Javed, who was also injured and had bloodstains on his clothing, 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 Khan was impeached in a parliamentary vote, he has held demonstrations across Pakistan, sparking opposition to a government struggling to lift the economy out of the crisis that Khan’s government left it behind.
Khan planned to lead the motorized caravan slowly north on the Grand Trunk Road to Islamabad, gaining more support along the way before entering the capital.
“I want you all to join in. This is not for political or personal gain, or to overthrow the government… this is to bring real freedom to the country,” Khan said in a video message on the eve of the march. .
Additional reporting by Aftab Ahmed, Sudipto Ganguly and Tanvi Mehta; Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by John Stonestreet and Nick Macfie
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