Imran Khan shot at Pakistan protest rally, say associates

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ISLAMABAD — Imran Khan, Pakistan’s leading opposition figure, is accusing top government officials of planning an attack Thursday in which he was shot in the foot and lightly wounded during a protest march. , party officials said.

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

In a statement issued by Asad Umar, a senior leader of Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, to local broadcasters, Khan said “he has already received some information, and he can say with authority” that Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Interior Minister and a senior Pakistani intelligence official were behind the attack.

“Khan demands that these three men be removed from their offices,” Umar told local broadcasters in remarks. If they are not fired, there will be nationwide protests. We will not allow Pakistan to continue like this. Our protest will continue till these three are fired.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah dismissed the allegations as baseless. He said that he has no evidence and is only making these false allegations for his own political interests. Sanaullah said Khan’s party was spreading “extremist ideas” that were having a fresh effect on Khan and his supporters.

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“Remember, you too can be a victim of this hate,” he said. “Please stop this, it will only invite more violence.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the firing in a statement on Thursday and ordered an investigation.

Video footage of the attack released by Khan’s office showed party leaders scrambling for cover on a bus as gunshots rang out over music played by the crowd.

“Khan was injured in the foot, but his condition is stable,” Umar told local Pakistani broadcaster ARY News. He said that the former leader is undergoing 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 intensified the growing animosity between Khan and the Pakistani government. Khan’s supporters and members of his party are describing it as an assassination attempt, allegations Pakistan’s leadership says is an attempt to politicize the shooting and fuel unrest.

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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. The unnamed man in the video said he shot at Khan because loud music was being played during the march while the Muslim call to prayer was being called, an act frowned upon by many conservative Muslims. It is considered honorable.

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

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb in her address to the nation condemned the incident and appealed to remain peaceful.

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

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Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote that year but has since won popular support across the country with massive rallies denouncing government officials as corrupt and calling them foreign puppets.

Last week, Khan began marching on the country’s capital, Islamabad, to demand early elections. He vowed that the march would culminate in the biggest demonstration in Pakistan’s history.

Pakistan banned Imran Khan from politics, unrest spread.

Khan has come under increasing pressure from the Pakistani government as his popular protest movement has grown. Several legal cases have been registered against him, one of which is 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 charges at a heated news conference. He said Khan sought favors from the army during his tenure but did not say what Khan requested.

Khan’s party denied any wrongdoing.

Pakistan’s military is considered the country’s most powerful force, but senior leaders of the security forces rarely consider politics in public.

George reported from Kabul.

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