Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Friday blamed the Punjab government for security lapses during the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s long march, stressing that provincial authorities are required to ensure security for any demonstrations within the province.
Addressing a press conference from Islamabad, he said it was “sad” that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had blamed three people for his attempted assassination without waiting for the results of any investigation or providing evidence. Within hours of the shooting, which resulted in the death of a PTI supporter and left Khan and 12 others injured, party leaders Mian Aslam Iqbal and Asad Umar issued a video statement claiming that Khan had instructed them to fix responsibility for the shooting on three people—Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the interior minister and Maj. Gen. Faisal of the ISI. According to the two politicians, the PTI is seeking the ouster of all three individuals, warning that the party would stage nationwide protests until this aim had been achieved.
The interior minister also questioned the leaking to media of a “confession” from the detained suspect, stressing the reasons provided were very concerning. “In the video, the suspect’s statements are very concerning and dangerous,” he said. “Such allegations were made in the past as well. And after the video going viral, it is possible that such narratives will get fueled,” he added. The suspect has alleged that he had targeted Khan because he was “misleading” the public, adding that he had been particularly incensed by the long march playing songs from its container while the call to azaan was underway. This form of religious fanaticism, said Sanaullah, was provoked by invoking religion in political rallies.
To prevent such occurrences in future, said the minister, the government was requesting Khan to both review his security and “change his behavior,” referring to the ousted prime minister’s habit of describing his protests as “jihad.” Stressing that this request was not intended to discourage anyone from joining the long march, Sanaullah said it was necessary for the public to be aware of the ground realities. “We see Imran Khan as a political opponent, not an enemy,” he said. “Imran Khan thinks of political opponents as enemies,” he regretted.
Responding to a question, he said P.M. Sharif could visit the injured Khan as a gesture of goodwill, but clarified no decision had been taken over this as yet. “This is under consideration, especially in view of the allegation he levelled at us yesterday,” he said, referring to Khan blaming the premier for the attack on his long march.
To another question, the minister said it was strange for some elements within the PTI to blame the federal government for the leaking of the suspect’s video. “The suspect was arrested by Punjab police, he was interrogated by Punjab police in Gujrat and the video was leaked by Punjab police,” he said, noting that the provincial government was ruled by the PTI and its ally PMLQ. “Chief Minister Pervez Elahi is responsible for this lapse,” he added.
Sanaullah also questioned the delay in the registration of a first information report (FIR) in the shooting, saying perhaps the PTI was delaying this because it wanted to ensure it was as per its wishes.