South Asia

Imran Khan claims there were ‘two shooters’ in assassination attempt

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

Addressing a press conference in a Lahore hospital, Khan, 70, described the attack, which saw him being shot, during his protest march in the town of Wazirabad on Thursday.

Sitting in a wheelchair with his right leg in a cast and his left leg heavily bandaged, Khan accused Pakistan’s 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 told journalists.

Sharif’s government has denied the accusation, and blames the assassination attempt on a lone assailant while the military called Khan’s accusations “baseless and irresponsible” and said it was taking legal action against him.

Khan was waving to a crowd of supporters on Thursday afternoon when the container truck he was standing on was sprayed with bullets.

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

“There were two men. Had they synchronized 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,” Khan said.

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

One person was killed and at least 10 injured in the shooting.

The attempt on Khan’s life has deepened the political crisis that has gripped Pakistan since his ousting and comes at a time when the country is struggling with the aftermath of devastating floods and an economic crisis.

Khan meanwhile said he would resume his “long march” to Islamabad once he was more mobile.

“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”.

He warned that the attempt on his life could prompt widespread anti-government protests and said: “Either we will have a peaceful revolution or a bloody one.

“People will take to the streets like Sri Lanka. There will be chaos.”

Meanwhile, protests by PTI workers and supporters erupted in various cities across the country after Friday prayers, Reuters reported.

Irate protesters blocked the busy Murree Road, the artery of Rawalpindi, which leads to Islamabad.

They also clashed with police at the Faizabad interchange, which connects the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Separately, protests were witnessed outside the Governor House in Lahore, with television footage showing protesters trying to scale the gates of the sprawling premises.

Meanwhile, police in Pakistan’s Punjab province have arrested two more suspects, who they believe had sold the pistol and bullets for Rs 20,000 to Naveed Mohammad Basheer, the assailant who tried to assassinate Khan, Geo News reported.

Basheer has confessed that he attacked Khan because “he was trying to mislead the public.”

Khan launched his march on October 28 from Lahore hoping to reach Islamabad on November 4 in a drive to force the government to announce fresh elections.

Khan was ousted from power in April after losing a vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly.