Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan shot and wounded in ‘assassination attempt’

Former Pakistan leader Imran Khan was shot in the shin on Thursday when his anti-government protest convoy came under attack in what his aides said was an assassination attempt.

The 70-year-old was standing and waving to cheering crowds from the roof of a truck when the shots rang out.

One of his supporters was killed and several more injured in the attack in Wazirabad, 120 miles from Islamabad.

Khan was out of danger, said Faisal Sultan, a doctor who is also the head of the Lahore hospital where the former premier was being treated. Scans and x-rays showed bullet fragments in Khan’s leg.

Mr Khan is seen waving in video footage of the aftermath as he is taken to hospital in Lahore (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf)
Mr Khan is seen waving in video footage of the aftermath as he is taken to hospital in Lahore (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf)

“It was a clear assassination attempt. Khan was hit but he’s stable. There was a lot of bleeding,” said Fawad Chaudhry, a spokesperson for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

Footage on Pakistan television channels showed Mr Khan with a bandage on his leg as he was being taken to a hospital.

Video of the incident showed a gunman being taken down by another man as he tried to fire his weapon.

Mr Khan is leading a massive “long march” to Islamabad to demand a snap election after he was ousted as prime minister in a parliamentary confidence vote in April.

He has mobilised mass rallies across the country, claiming he was the victim of a conspiracy by his successor, Shehbaz Sharif.

Sharif condemned Thursday’s attack and ordered his government to investigate the incident. He added that he was praying for Khan: “Violence should have no place in our country’s politics.”

The White House also condemned the attack and hoped for the swift recovery of all the wounded. “We call on all parties to remain peaceful and refrain from violence,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Air Force One as president Biden flew to New Mexico.

Among the wounded in the attack was Faisal Javed, a lawmaker from Tehreek-e-Insaf. In a video statement, with his bloodstained clothes visible, he said the attack would not stop Khan’s march on Islamabad. Khan’s supporters rallied in different parts of the country after the shooting.

Khan has been at loggerheads with Pakistan’s powerful military and has refused to halt his plans to protest in the capital. The military said that, although Khan had a right to hold a rally there, no one would be allowed to destabilise the country. Authorities in Islamabad have deployed additional security to deter any clashes.

The attack came less than a week after Khan began his march from Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, with thousands of supporters.

Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Programme at the Wilson Centre, said: “As horrible as this attack was, it appears it could have been much, much worse if not for the bravery of the man who intervened.”

This is not the first time an alleged assassination attempt has been made on a senior Pakistani leader. The country’s former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was shot dead on 27 December, 2007. A year later, the prime minister at the time, Yousaf Raza Gillani, survived an assassination attempt.

The shooting came after Pakistan’s election commission last month disqualified Mr Khan from holding public office for allegedly selling state gifts unlawfully and concealing assets as premier, a case Mr Khan has called politically motivated.

Mr Khan, who has challenged the disqualification in a pending court case, said he would sue chief election commissioner Sikandar Raja, who was behind the decision, for calling him a “dishonest person”.