• PTI supporter killed, 14 others, including lawmakers, injured as shots fired at container carrying party leadership
• Asad conveys Imran’s message blaming govt, military officials for attack
• Alleged assassin thwarted by activists, in custody; claims ‘sole responsibility’
• Fawad calls it attack on Pakistan, its people; asks employees, supporters to hunt revenge
• Protests break out across country
LAHORE: In what gave the impression to be an assassination attempt, former prime minister Imran Khan was shot at and injured on Thursday evening when a suspect, standing in front of the container carrying the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief and senior party leaders, showered a volley of bullets with an automatic pistol when the party’s ‘Haqaaqi Azadi’ march reached Wazirabad’s Allahwala Chowk.
It later transpired that a PTI supporter, identified as Muazzam Nawaz, had lost his life, while 14 party leaders and employees, including Senator Faisal Javed Khan, MNA Ahmad Nasir Chattha and Omer Mayar, were among the many injured.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan, who sustained multiple bullet injuries in his leg, was reported to be stable and shifted to Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital in Lahore. Other injured were shifted to local hospitals for immediate treatment. Mr Khan was operated upon and pellets faraway from his thigh and shin.
Later after his operation at Shaukat Khanum, the PTI chairman said he was high-quality and expressed the resolve that the long march would proceed and reach Islamabad. “I won’t bow down, but stay determined to bring Haqeeqi Azadi for my fellow Pakistanis,” PTI official media quoted him as saying, adding the march would resume from Wazirabad at 11am on Friday (today).
The PTI had resumed its long march from Wazirabad on Thursday afternoon on the seventh day of the movement and was reportedly targeted at around 4:15pm. The march was suspended for the day on the instructions of the injured party chairman.
Witnesses claimed the suspected assailant fired a whole round of the bullet magazine and was attempting to load a second when a PTI supporter, Ibtisam, immediately overpowered him from behind. The suspect was later arrested and brought to a neighborhood police station.
The attack, being deemed “targeted”, triggered widespread condemnation from across the political divide.
PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry alleged it was “a planned assassination attempt on Imran Khan and he escaped narrowly”, claiming an automatic weapon was used.
Mr Chaudhry tweeted: “It was a well-planned assassination attempt on Imran Khan. The assassin planned to kill Imran Khan and leadership of PTI. It was not 9MM, it was a burst from automatic weapon. No two opinions that it was narrow escape.”
From atop the leading container within the long march, a highly charged Chaudhry had immediately after the incident called it an attack on Pakistan and its people, and asked the party employees and supporters across the country to hunt revenge.
“The assailant had aimed toward Imran Khan, but two march participants sensed danger and pushed the pistol down that averted a serious disaster,” he stated.
PTI Punjab President Dr Yasmin Rashid also warned the establishment that “Imran Khan is our red line and now you might have crossed the road”. She tweeted: “You can not deter us. You can not! We’ll take you to task.”
The suspected assailant arrested from the crime scene claimed in a video statement apparently leaked by the police claimed he had planned to kill Mr Khan when the long march began from Lahore. “I attempted my best to kill him only and nobody else because he was misguiding people,” he said. The suspect, who earlier served a jail term in a theft case, also claimed he acted alone and planned the conspiracy himself.
Imran blames govt, military officials
Later, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar in a video statement said Mr Khan was secure and had conveyed a message that he had prior information concerning the attack on his life, holding three senior government and military officials liable for it. He went on to say that “PTI chief Imran Khan demanded [the trio] be faraway from their offices otherwise a country-wide protest can be launched”. He asked employees to attend for the following protest call by the party chief.
Punjab senior minister Mian Aslam Iqbal, accompanying Mr Umar, said an FIR can be lodged against the three officials named by Mr Khan, adding an application and statement was being submitted to the Punjab police chief.
Later, the electronic media watchdog barred TV channels from running Mr Umar’s statement, saying in an announcement: “Broadcasting of such content is prone to create hatred among the many people or is prejudicial to maintenance of law and order or is prone to disturb public peace and tranquility or endangers national security is a serious violation of Article 19 of the Structure and Section 27 of PEMRA Ordinance 2002 in addition to Electronic Media Code of Conduct 2015.”
Mr Khan’s former wife Jemima Goldsmith lauded the PTI supporter who overpowered the suspected assailant. She tweeted “hero” together with an image of the person. She also thanked God the previous premier was alright. Later, Mr Khan is claimed to have spoken to his children within the UK and warranted them he was secure.
Sources say the Gujranwala city police officer had already issued a threat alert on Nov 1 that the VIP security provided to Mr Khan needed to be beefed up and suggested bullet-proof shield, rostrum and stage be used on the container.
“Bullet-proof shield, bullet-proof rostrum together with a screen has reached Gujranwala and needed to be installed on the container for the protection of Imran Khan,” the threat alert stated.
Gujrat Regional Police Officer Dr Akhtar Abbas told reporters that they had already asked the march organizers since they began in Lahore to make use of a bullet-proof rostrum and shield. He added the Punjab government had constituted a team comprising district police and counter terrorism department officials for an investigation.
Soon after Thursday’s attack, Senator Ejaz Chaudhry tweeted that he had already warned MNA Chattha that a life-attempt can be made on the party chief in Wazirabad. He also alleged the “imported government” was involved within the attack, while Asad Umar also pointed fingers on the ruling PML-N over the incident.
Hamza, a DJ liable for the sound system throughout the march, told a news channel that he was on the container and saw three people firing on the vehicle. “A shooter standing on the terrace of a close-by constructing was carrying a giant gun,” he said, adding several people were injured and refuted the notion that it was the work of 1 person carrying a pistol on the bottom.
The Punjab police late on Thursday claimed a suspected person, who fired shots at the previous premier in Wazirabad, had been detained. Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Faisal Shahkar directed the Counter-Terrorism Department, and the Gujrat regional and district law enforcement officials to conduct investigations into the incident to bring true facts before the people.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi directed the IGP to constitute a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe into the attack on Mr Khan. He also took notice of the purported leak of the arrested suspect’s video statement and suspended your complete staff of the police station concerned.
Mr Elahi along together with his son Moonis also reached Shaukat Khanum hospital and inquired after Mr Khan. In a video message from the hospital, Mr Elahi said Imran Khan was high-quality and committed to his mission of ‘real independence’. He said the JIT would investigate the motives behind the attack and discover those that trained the assailant.
Refuting that the assailant acted alone, the CM claimed two people were involved and vowed that every one those responsible and the perpetrators behind the “conspiracy” can be taken to task. He said he had suspended your complete police station where the arrested suspect’s statement was leaked from.
“The cell phones of all policemen have been confiscated and handed over to the forensic department for evaluation and data on who was in touch and where,” he added.
Furthermore, Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi also visited him within the hospital.
Report from interior minister
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also condemned the Wazirabad attack and sought a report from the inside minister.
In a series of tweets, the PM prayed for early recovery and health of the PTI chairman and other injured people and condemned the firing. In search of a report from the inside minister, the prime minister stated the federal government would extend all support vital to the Punjab government for security and investigation. “Violence shouldn’t have any place in our country’s politics,” he maintained.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also strongly condemned the attack on former prime minister Khan and his party leaders. Riyadh shared its statement on Twitter, denouncing the “attempted assassination”.
Mr Trudeau tweeted the attack was “completely unacceptable”, and strongly condemned the violence. “It has no place in politics, in any democracy, or in our society. I’m wishing a speedy recovery to Imran and all, who were injured today.”
Immediately after the attack on Mr Khan, PTI leaders and supporters took to the streets in cities across the country to sentence the incident. Punjab Local Government Minister Mehmoodur Rasheed led a protest at Liberty Chowk, while demonstrations were also held outside Shaukat Khanum hospital, Shahdara Chowk, GPO Chowk, The Mall, outside Governor House, Ferozepur Road, Babu Sabu Interchange where protesters burned tyres and blocked roads.
In Karachi, protests were held from power house intersection to 4K intersection where the service road was closed for traffic, at 5-Star intersection, a sit-in at Teen Talwar and at Native Jetty Bridge where pro-Imran slogans were raised.
In Rawalpindi’s Faizabad area, an enormous protest was held where people burnt tyres, shouted anti-government and pro-Imran Khan slogans, blocked Murree Road. In Faisalabad, an enormous protest was held at Jinnah Colony Chowk on Narwala Road. One other one led by PTI leader Farrukh Habib was held near Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah’s house where protesters damaged a lion statue.
In Peshawar, protesters gathered outside the Corps Commander House and shouted slogans for ‘independence’. In Imran Khan’s hometown of Mianwali, MNA Amjad Ali Khan led a protest together with District General Secretary Ameer Khan at Dattakhel Chowk because the road was blocked and folks raised anti-government slogans and burned tires.
Similar protests were held in Hafizabad; Kotli and Muzaffarabad in AJK, Gilgit, Multan, Ahmedpur East, Chanigoth, Uch Sharif, Gujrat, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Pindigheb, Jahanian, Buner, Lodhran, Bajaur, Parachinar, Swabi, Kohat, Timergara and Gojra.
Waseem Ashraf Butt in Gujrat also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2022