- Former cricketer Imran Khan was shot in the shin
- ‘It was a clear assassination attempt,’ says the assistant
- Khan was heading to Islamabad to demand snap elections.
- Pakistan has a long history of political violence.
Lahore, November 3, 2011 (FBC) Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was shot dead on Thursday in what his aides said was an apparent assassination attempt in the eastern part of the country.
Khan, 70, who was ousted as prime minister in April, has been in the middle of six days of miles of protests, with thousands of cheering supporters waving from the roof of a container truck as shots rang out.
Members of the convoy were injured in an attack in Wazirabad, about 200 km (120 miles) from Islamabad, while Information Minister Marium Aurangzeb said one suspect had been arrested.
“It was a clear assassination attempt. Khan was hit but he is stable. There was a lot of bleeding,” Fawad Chaudhry, a spokesman for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, told Reuters.
“If the shooter had not been stopped by the people there, the entire leadership of PTI would have been lost.”
In a statement, the Army described the shooting as “highly reprehensible.” Khan accused the military of supporting his plan to oust him. Last week, the military issued an unprecedented press release denying the claims.
“I heard gunshots explode, then I saw Imran Khan and his aides fall on the truck,” eyewitness Qadhafi Butt told Reuters.
“Later, a gunman fired one shot but was caught by a Khan party activist.”
In the footage, which is said to be running on multiple channels, a gunman is held from behind by one of the people at the meeting. Then he tries to run away.
Television channels showed the suspected shooter, who appeared to be in his twenties and thirties. He says he wanted to kill Khan and did it alone.
“He (Khan) was misleading the public, and I couldn’t stand it,” the suspect said in the video. The Information Minister confirmed that the footage was taken by the police.
No one has yet been charged in the attack.
Khan surprised many people when he went to the capital Islamabad on a campaign to topple the government of his rival, Shehbaz Sharif.
A member of Khan’s party was reportedly killed in the attack.
Khan’s aide Chaudhry wrote on Twitter: “It was a well-planned assassination attempt on Imran Khan. The killer planned to kill Imran Khan and PTI leadership. It was not a 9MM that was fired from an automatic weapon. No comment on that. It was a narrow escape.”
Opponents on the road
Pakistan has a long history of political violence. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in a shooting and bomb attack in December 2007 after holding an election rally in Rawalpindi, a city near Islamabad.
Her father and former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were hanged in the same town after being ousted in a military coup in 1979.
Local media showed footage of Khan waving to the crowd after exiting the vehicle.
He was taken to a hospital in Lahore as protesters took to the streets in parts of the country and PTI leaders demanded justice.
PTI colleague Faisal Javed, who was also injured and had blood stains on his clothes, told GEO TV from the hospital, “Many of our comrades have been injured and we have heard that one of them has died.”
Prime Minister Sharif condemned the attack and ordered an immediate investigation.
After being ousted by a parliamentary vote, Khan held rallies across Pakistan, igniting protests against the government, which is struggling to pull the economy out of the crisis the Khan administration left behind.
Khan planned to lead the motorcades gradually north along the Grand Trunk Road to Islamabad, with further support en route before entering the capital.
“I want you all to participate. This is not for political or personal gain or to overthrow the government… this is to bring real freedom to the country,” Khan said in a video message on the eve of the rally.
Additional reporting by Aftab Ahmed, Sudipto Ganguly and Tanvi Mehta; Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by John Stonestreet and Nick Maffei
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