Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was shot and wounded while leading a massive protest march in the country’s eastern city of Wazirabad. This is not only an assassination attempt on Imran Khan, but attack on Pakistan itself.
Mohammad Atif Khan, a close aide of the former PM and senior leader in his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, said Khan was shot in the leg and taken to hospital.
The PTI party called the shooting an assassination attempt in a tweet posted shortly after Khan was taken for treatment. Senior PTI member and former information minister Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry said in an impromptu speech following the shooting.
Two armed men opened fire and were immediately taken into custody by police. One of the assailants was beaten by the mob and reportedly died, according to NBC.
Meanwhile, PTI supporters blocked highways in various cities while party officials asked them to gather at various spots for protests.
The 70-year-old Khan, a former cricket star who became Pakistan’s prime minister in 2018, was ousted from power in April of this year after a no-confidence vote by opposition lawmakers alleging corruption and unconstitutional action.
A total of 14 people were wounded in the incident, according to doctors, while one of Khan’s supporters, identified as Muazzam Nawaz, died after sustaining bullet wounds.
The identity of the suspect, who was arrested by police at the scene, was not immediately clear. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Khan began his so-called “Long March” on October 28 from Lahore. The convoy was expected to reach the capital, Islamabad, on November 11, 2022. Khan’s government was removed in April this year through a parliamentary vote of no confidence.
The PTI leader has alleged, without providing evidence, that a United States-led foreign conspiracy, in collusion with Pakistan’s military establishment and his rival politicians, were behind his removal.
In recent months, the 70-year-old has been holding rallies across the country, demanding early elections which otherwise are scheduled for next year. Meanwhile, the PTI, on the back of Khan’s surging popularity, has swept multiple by-elections held in July and October, 2022.
The military is often seen as a kingmaker in Pakistan, and has ruled the country of 220 million people directly for more than half of its 75-year history. Pakistan has a long history of political violence.
Liaqat Ali Khan, the country’s first prime minister, was shot dead soon during a rally in Rawalpindi in 1952. The former PM and founder of Pakistan People’s Party, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979 after his government was overthrown in a military coup.
His daughter, Benazir Bhutto, who also became a two-time prime minister, was assassinated in Rawalpindi in December 2007 while she was campaigning for an election.
Thursday’s shooting came at a precarious time for Pakistan which grapples with the aftermath of catastrophic floods that killed more than 1,730 people and affected 33 million.
Al Jazeera / ABC Flash Point Political Assassination Blog News 2022.