ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan believed the current political leaders – including Prime Minister Sharif, the interior minister and a military general – were behind the attack, some of his allies told media immediately after the shooting.
On Thursday, Khan sustained a bullet injury in his leg, after shots were fired at a rally in Gujranwala in an apparent assassination attempt.
One spokesman, Raoof Hasan, told the BBC’s Newshour programme the government was “attempting to eliminate [Imran Khan] physically”.
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But in a press conference on Friday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah rejected the allegations, saying that the Punjab government was to blame for any security lapses in the state. “We see Imran Khan as a political opponent, not an enemy,” he added.
A video circulating on social media shows confession of the man who apparently said had attempted to kill Khan.
Although the motive behind the attempted assassination is unclear, in response to police asking the suspect why he had opened fire, he said: “He was misguiding the people. I wanted to kill him. I tried to kill him.”
But the video has been dismissed by the PTI chairman’s allies as a “cover-up”.
Long March Shooting: How the Attack Unfolded
Ever since his government was toppled, the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has been fighting to return to office, leading a “long march” of protests to seek early elections that will facilitate his comeback.
By Thursday, his convoy had reached Wazirabad, where crowds had gathered to hear him speak.
He was stood on top of an open truck-bed surrounded by aides and his other party members when the shots rang out, as BBC news reported.
“It was so sudden that it took me a while to understand what was going on,” one party staffer, Mueezuddin, told the BBC.
However, from their vantage point they were able to pick out the attacker.
“We saw the attacker had emptied a whole magazine,” Mueezuddin said, “[and he had] loaded another magazine when he was grabbed by a boy from behind.”
According to Mueezuddin, Khan and those around him ducked quickly after the first shots. He was then moved into a bulletproof car and rushed away to hospital in Lahore.
Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi has suggested there may have been more than one attacker, saying Khan had been “shot in the leg from the front while the alleged attacker who was caught on the spot was on the right side”.
The Promised Long March
On Friday, ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan, including thousands of supporters, started a long-promised march on Friday to Pakistani capital Islamabad, challenging Shahbaz Sharif’s government and demands for early elections.
Roughly 10,000 demonstrators left easter city of Lahore Friday. A huge number of people piled into hundreds of trucks and cars, while many others marched on foot.
The convoy’s route — known as the Grand Trunk Road — covers a distance of 300 kilometers (187 miles) and is expected to include frequent stops, with political speeches and rallies in towns and urban areas along the way, as the Arab News reported.
Addressing supporters before the departure from Lahore, Khan described the endeavor as a “peaceful march” and claimed his political struggle against the government would continue until Sharif’s administration agrees to hold early elections.
But the government has repeatedly said the elections will be held as scheduled, in 2023.
Meanwhile, Khan maintains his ouster in a parliament no-confidence vote in April was unlawful, and a conspiracy by his political opponents orchestrated by the United States. However, both Washington and Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, denied.