Former Pakistan cricket team captain and Prime Minister Imran Khan was shot in the shin on Thursday when his anti-government protest convoy came under attack in the east of the country in what his aides said was a clear assassination attempt.
Khan, 70, who was ousted as PM in April, was six days into a miles-long protest procession, standing and waving to thousands of cheering supporters from the roof of a container truck when shots rang out.
Several others in his convoy were wounded and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said a suspect had been arrested after the attack in Wazirabad, nearly 200 km (120 miles) from Islamabad.
In purported footage of the shooting, being run by multiple channels, a man with a handgun is grabbed from behind by one of the people at the gathering. He then tries to flee.
TV channels showed a man they said was a suspected shooter, who looked to be in his twenties or thirties. He said he wanted to kill Khan and had acted alone.
“He (Khan) was misleading the people, and I couldn’t bear it,” the suspect said in the video. The information minister confirmed the footage was recorded by police.
No one has yet been charged with the attack.
Khan had been whipping up large crowds on his way to the capital Islamabad in a campaign to topple the government of rival Shehbaz Sharif.
One member of Khan’s party said there were reports one person had been killed in the attack.
“It was a clear assassination attempt. Khan was hit but he’s stable. There was a lot of bleeding,” Fawad Chaudhry, a spokesperson for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, told Reuters.
“If the shooter had not been stopped by people there, the entire PTI leadership would have been wiped out.”
He wrote on Twitter: “It was a well-planned assassination attempt on Imran Khan, the assassin planned to kill Imran Khan and leadership of PTI, it was not 9mm it was burst from automatic weapon, no two opinions about that it was narrow escape.”
P Sharif condemned the shooting and ordered an immediate investigation.
Since being ousted through a parliamentary vote, Khan has held rallies across Pakistan, stirring opposition against a government that is struggling to bring the economy out of the crisis that Khan’s administration left it in.
Khan had planned to lead the motorised caravan slowly northwards up the Grand Trunk Road to Islamabad, drawing more support along the way before entering the capital.
“I want that all of you participate. This is not for politics or personal gain, or to topple the government... this is to bring genuine freedom to the country,” Khan said in a video message on the eve of the march.
Khan led Pakistan to the 1992 World Cup title and is regarded as one of the best all-rounders to have played the game. He played 88 Tests, scoring 3807 runs at an average of 37.69 while picking 362 wickets. In 175 ODIs, Imran scored 3709 runs and took 182 wickets.
Khan served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan from August 2018 to April 2022. He is the founder and chairman of PTI, one of the biggest political parties in the country.
Babar Azam, captain of the Pakistan cricket team, took to Twitter to condemn the attack.
Babar’s team is currently in Australia, playing the T20 World Cup.
(With inputs from Reuters)
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