Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was targeted in an apparent assassination attempt on Thursday, getting shot in his foot, provoking nationwide protests from his supporters.
According to PTI leader Asad Umar, Khan was hit with a bullet in his foot after a gunman opened fire on the PTI chief’s container when the party’s long march on Islamabad—on its seventh day—was passing through Wazirabad in Punjab province. Eyewitnesses said a gunman opened fire on the container from the second floor of a nearby plaza, using an automatic weapon. However, a lone gunman that was apprehended from the location possessed only a 9mm gun, raising questions among the PTI of a cover-up or more than one shooter.
In addition to Khan, the PTI has reported 6 other people, including Ahmad Nasir Chatha, Faisal Javed, and Imran Ismail, were injured and are currently being treated.
The shooting triggered instant panic among the crowds gathered to hear Khan during the long march. PTI leader Dr. Yasmin Rashid, addressing the party’s supporters after the shooting, implied Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah was to blame and vowed to ensure he was brought to justice. This was repeated by several other PTI leaders, who stressed that the long march would continue as soon as Khan had recovered and was discharged from hospital.
In a video statement, PTI leaders Asad Umar and Mian Aslam Iqbal said Khan was now doing “fine,” adding that he had held three people responsible for the attack on him. “He [Khan] has said that he had prior information … that makes him believe three people were responsible: [Prime Minister] Shehbaz Sharif, [Interior Minister] Rana Sanaullah, and Maj. Gen. Faisal [of the ISI],” alleged Umar, adding if these three officials are not removed, the PTI would stage nationwide strikes.
The PTI staged strikes in cities across Pakistan on Thursday evening, blocking major arteries and causing traffic snarls. Demonstrators set fire to tyres, staged sit-ins, and blocked roads with trailers and other vehicles, demanding that the interior minister be charged with attempted murder and the government announce fresh elections.
In a video statement issued by Punjab police, the suspected gunman claims he opened fire on Khan because he was frustrated at the PTI chief “misleading” people. However, observers have noted the inherent contradictions in his statement, with him switching from the “misleading” reasoning to wanting to punish Khan for playing “songs on loudspeakers” during the call to azaan.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the attack in a posting on Twitter. “I condemn the incident of firing on PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the strongest words,” he said, adding he had sought an “immediate report on the incident” and was praying for the recovery of the injured. “Violence should have no place in our country’s politics,” he added.
Similar condemnations were also issued by PPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PMLN leaders Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz.