Imran Khan blames new Pakistan PM for assassination attempt as his angry supporters protest

Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has blamed two top ruling government officials and a military general for being involved in the assassination attempt on him, his senior aide said in a video message.

In his first statement after the bid on his life – issued through his party’s spokesperson – Mr Khan claimed Pakistan prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, interior minister Rana Sanaullah and military intelligence official Major-General Faisal Naseer were directly involved in the attack.

Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has called for a nationwide strike after Friday prayers, Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader party leader said, urging every Pakistani to participate in the protests.

The cricketer-turned-politician is in stable condition and will be discharged soon, according to Faisal Sultan, who is heading the team of doctors who treated him.

He said Mr Khan underwent two hours of surgery for a bullet wound in his right leg.

In a video statement, Asad Umar, one of Mr Khan’s top aides, said the former prime minister had intelligence prior to the protest rally and he can say with “certainty that these three people are behind the attack”.

“This fatal attack on Imran Khan was carried out by these people and they should be sacked from their position,” Mr Umar said, conveying Mr Khan’s message to the ruling leadership and people of the country.

“Pakistan can’t just carry on being run this way,” said Mr Umar.

Pakistan’s media regulator on Thursday banned news channels from airing Mr Umar’s video statement, saying there was a risk it would incite unrest.

Mr Khan, who has been waging a campaign against the country’s powerful military and the government that ousted him, suffered a gunshot wound in his leg after at least 11 bullet shots were fired at his anti-government protest convoy.

One of his supporters was killed and 13 others, including two legislators, were injured in the attack.

Protests erupted in several places on Thursday night as Mr Khan’s enraged supporters raised slogans against the ruling government and expressed anger against the military.

Several demonstrators gathered outside the house of the region’s military commander in Peshawar city. Visuals showed protesters vandalising an armoured police vehicle by climbing over it and stomping it.

A police report said 11 bullet cases were recovered from the site where shots were fired. There were nine pistol bullets and two large firearm bullets, Pakistan broadcaster Geo TV reported.

The man who was killed has been identified as Muazzam Nawaz. Nawaz was trying to contain the gunman when he received a gunshot to his head and died on the spot, the police report said.

Pakistan was already tense with Mr Khan’s party demanding new elections to be held, and these calls have only grown in the aftermath of Thursday’s shooting.

Mr Khan’s supporters began gathering again early on Friday at the place where he was shot and called on the former prime minister - known by millions around the world as the former star player and captain of Pakistan‘s cricket team - to restart his march on Islamabad.

“The march must go ahead. It cannot stop. People are very angry, it will become more intense,” Ansar Bashir, 40, a supporter who witnessed the shooting from close by, told Reuters.

The government and the ISI rejected Mr Khan’s allegations, ordering a high-level probe. Mr Sanaullah, the interior minister, said the gunman has been caught and confessed his crime.

“These are shameful accusations,” said Mr Sanaullah. “Your supporters caught the attacker. He is with your police service in Punjab.”

The interior minister accused Mr Khan and his party members of trying to create chaos in the country and said the suspect gunman is a “religious extremist” who had accused the ex-premier of comparing himself to prophets in some of his recent public speeches.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Perma), which banned channels from airing Mr Umar’s statement, cited an ongoing investigation for orders prohibiting the broadcast of the video clip.

Supporters of Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan react during a protest against the assassination attempt on Khan (AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan react during a protest against the assassination attempt on Khan (AFP via Getty Images)

It said the “airing of hateful, slanderous and unwarranted statements against country’s leadership and state institutions is in sheer violation” of Pakistan’s laws.

It added that the statement can instigate public sentiments and “create hatred among the people against country’s leadership”.

The assassination attempt on Mr Khan, in a country with a history of political assassinations, was denounced by several countries including the US, which Mr Khan had blamed for his ouster.

“The United States strongly condemns the attack on Imran Khan and his supporters and hopes for the swift recovery of all who were injured,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said the attack was unacceptable and had no place in any democracy or society.

“There is no space for violence in politics,” said British foreign secretary James Cleverly.

Pakistan has remained on the edge since Mr Khan was ousted in April through a no-confidence vote. He rejected his dismissal, calling it illegitimate and blamed the powerful military, his political opponents and the US for overthrowing his government, without furnishing any evidence.

Major-General Faisal Naseer, the head of the ISI’s internal wing who Mr Khan has blamed for the assassination attempt, was called out by him earlier as well.

Mr Khan accused the ISI official of ordering two members of his party to be detained and tortured.

In his speeches during rallies, Mr Khan referred to the general as “Dirty Harry”, a reference to the 1971 Hollywood classic in which Clint Eastwood portrays a rogue cop.

The suspected gunman, who has been identified only as Naveed, was arrested shortly after the attack on Mr Khan. In a video released by police, the man said he acted alone and planned the attack for days.

“He was misleading people and I couldn’t take it,” the man said. “I tried to kill only him.”