Imran Khan describes narrow escape in shooting attack

Former Pakistan prime minister says there were two gunmen

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Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan says he survived an attempt on his life because he fell after being hit in the legs, just as a second gunman fired at him.

At a press conference in a Lahore hospital on Friday evening, one day after being shot in the town of Wazirabad, Mr Khan, 70, described the attack as he led a march of supporters to the capital Islamabad to push for early elections.

Sitting in a wheelchair with his right leg in a cast and his left leg heavily bandaged, Mr Khan accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who replaced him following a vote of no confidence in April, of masterminding the attack along with Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Maj Gen Faisal Naseer, a director general in the country’s powerful Inter-Service Intelligence.

"These three decided to kill me," he said.

The government has denied the accusation, and blames the assassination attempt on a lone assailant fuelled by religious extremism. The military called Mr Khan's accusations "baseless and irresponsible" and said it was taking legal action against him.

Mr Khan was looking out at the crowd when bullets were sprayed at his modified container truck as it slowly inched through a thick crowd in Wazirabad, about 170 kilometres east of Islamabad.

"Bullets hit my leg, and when I was falling there was another burst," he told reporters.

"There were two men. Had they synchronised well, I would have not survived.

"One of them was caught and he is being touted as a religious fanatic. He was not a religious fanatic – there was an elaborate plan behind this."

Naveed Ahmad, the man arrested for the shooting, comes from a poor village near the site where Mr Khan was shot.

In a video leaked by police to the media, he accused Mr Khan of "misleading the public".

He said he was angry at the noise from the rally interrupting the call to prayer that summons Muslims to the mosque five times a day.

Pakistani media reported that at least seven to eights bullets were fired before the attacker was overpowered by supporters of Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party.

One person was killed and at least 10 injured in the shooting, which has deepened the political crisis that has gripped Pakistan since Mr Khan's ousting and comes at a time when the country is struggling with the aftermath of devastating floods and an economic crisis.

Mr Khan said he would resume his so-called "long march" on the capital when he had recovered from his wounds.

"One bullet hit the upper part of my leg, one bullet passed near my main artery and another stopped near it," he said, calling his survival "mercy from Allah".

"The day I'm well, I'll hit the streets again."

He warned that the attempt on his life could prompt widespread anti-government protests like those in Sri Lanka earlier this year.

“Either we will have a peaceful revolution or a bloody one,” he said. “People will take to the streets like Sri Lanka. There will be chaos.”

Earlier on Friday, scattered protests broke out around the country after afternoon prayers, with police deploying tear gas in several cities to control crowds.

Mr Khan’s party called on supporters to join protests in all the country’s major cities at 5pm on Saturday, former finance minister and party leader Asad Umar said in a Twitter message.

Pakistan has witnessed several political assassinations in the past, including of its first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, who was shot dead at a rally in Rawalpindi in 1951.

Another former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was killed in 2007 when a huge bomb detonated near her vehicle as she greeted supporters in the city of Rawalpindi.

— With reporting from AFP and Bloomberg.

Updated: November 05, 2022, 8:49 AM
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