- Former cricketer Imran Khan was shot in the shin
- “It was a clear attempted murder,” says an aide
- Khan was leading a march against Islamabad demanding early elections
- Pakistan has a long history of political violence
LAHORE, Nov 3 (Reuters) – Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan was shot in the shin on Thursday when his anti-government protest convoy was attacked in the east of the country in what his aides said was an apparent assassination attempt.
Khan, 70, ousted as prime minister in April, was six days into a kilometer-long protest procession, standing and waving to thousands of cheering supporters from the roof of a container ship when 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 Marium Aurangzeb said a suspect had been arrested.
“It was a clear assassination attempt. Khan was hit but is stable. There was a lot of bleeding,” Fawad Chaudhry, a spokesman for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, told Reuters.
“Had the shooter not been stopped by people there, the entire PTI leadership would have been destroyed.”
In a statement, the military called the shooting “highly reprehensible.” Khan had accused the military of supporting the plot to oust him from power. Last week, the military held an unprecedented press conference to deny the claims.
“I heard bullet shots, then I saw Imran Khan and his aides fall on top of the truck,” witness Qazafi Butt told Reuters.
“A gunman later fired only one shot but was grabbed by a Khan party activist.”
In the alleged footage of the shooting run by multiple channels, a man with a gun is grabbed from behind by one of the people at the gathering. He then tries to escape.
Television feeds showed a suspected gunman who appeared to be in his twenties or thirties. He said he wanted to kill Khan and acted alone.
“He (Khan) was misleading people and I couldn’t stand it,” the suspect said in the video. The Minister of Information confirmed that the footage was recorded by the police.
No one has yet been charged in the attack.
Khan was drawing large crowds on his way to the capital Islamabad in a campaign to topple 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’s aide Chaudhry tweeted: “This was a well planned assassination attempt on Imran Khan, the killer planned to kill Imran Khan and PTI leadership, it was not a 9MM, it was fired from an automatic weapon, no two opinions about it it was narrow escape.”
PROTESTERS IN THE STREETS
Pakistan has a long history of political violence. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in December 2007 in a gun and bomb attack after holding an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi, outside Islamabad.
Her father and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in the same city in 1979 after being ousted in a military coup.
Local media showed footage of Khan waving to the crowd after being evacuated from his vehicle amid people running and shouting after the shooting.
He was taken to a hospital in Lahore as protesters took to the streets in parts of the country and PTI leaders demanded justice.
PTI colleague Faisal Javed, who was also injured and had blood stains on his clothes, told Geo TV from the hospital: “Several of our colleagues are injured. We 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, igniting opposition to a government struggling to pull the economy out of the crisis the Khan administration left it in.
Khan planned to lead the motorized caravan slowly north along the Grand Trunk Road towards Islamabad, attracting more support along the way before entering the capital.
“I want all of you to participate. This is not for politics or personal gain or to overthrow the government… this is to bring real freedom to the country,” Khan said in a video address ahead of the march.
Additional reporting by Aftab Ahmed, Sudipto Ganguly and Tanvi Mehta; Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by John Stonestreet and Nick McPhee
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