Imran Khan, ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, shot at rally

By Salman Masood and Christina Goldbaum

ISLAMABAD — Former Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan was wounded at a rally Thursday (3) after at least one unidentified man opened fire on his convoy, in what aides have called a targeted attack.

Khan was in Wazirabad, in eastern Pakistan, leading a protest march to the capital, Islamabad, to demand the government hold early elections when his convoy came under attack.

Khan, 70, was shot in the leg and was being moved to Lahore for treatment, according to Fawad Chaudhry, a senior member of Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Chaudhry called the incident “100% an assassination attempt”.

A video of the attack showed Khan standing with his aides in a container mounted on top of a truck as it moved slowly through a crowd of his supporters. As gunshots rang out, Khan and others on the truck appeared to duck down.

At least one senior aide to Khan, Sen. Faisal Javed Khan, was also wounded in the attack, according to local news media. Photographs circulating on social media showed the aide, who often helps rally crowds at the former prime minister’s protests, dressed in white and splattered with blood. He did not appear to be seriously injured.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif immediately condemned the attack and requested a report on it from the country’s interior minister.

“We pray for the speedy recovery of Imran and other injured,” he said in a statement. “Violence should have no place in politics.”

The attack comes at a moment of intense political acrimony in Pakistan. Khan was removed from office in April in a vote of no confidence after falling out with the country’s top military leaders, who are widely considered to be the invisible hand guiding Pakistani politics.

Khan claimed that the vote was part of a conspiracy by the country’s military establishment and his political opponents to oust him from power. And in the months since, he has made a stunning comeback. The former cricket star turned politician has drawn thousands to his rallies across Pakistan and tapped into deep-seated disillusionment among Pakistanis over the country’s political upheaval and economic crisis.

But as his popularity has grown, so, too, has a crackdown on Khan. In recent weeks, he has faced mounting cases against him in court and last month, Pakistan’s election commission disqualified him from completing his current term in Parliament.

The cases against him are seen by his supporters and many political analysts as part of a coordinated campaign by Pakistani authorities to sideline him from politics — an accusation that the Pakistani military and political leaders have repeatedly denied. But even so, the crackdown has only buoyed his popularity, analysts say, and Khan has demonstrated a unique ability to elude Pakistan’s typical playbook for ousting leaders.

In a show of political strength, last week Khan and his supporters set off on a highly anticipated days-long march to Islamabad from Lahore in an effort to add pressure to his calls for the government to hold general elections sooner than August, when they are scheduled to happen.

-New York Times



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