Imran Khan today said he was hit by four bullets in an assassination bid by those “using the script of religious extremism” in Pakistan Punjab’s Wazirabad town on Thursday. “I got to know the day before the attack that, either in Wazirabad or in Gujrat, they planned to kill me,” the former prime minister claimed in a video address, his first since the attack, from a Lahore hospital.
Wazirabad and Gujrat are towns on the route of his Lahore-to-Islamabad march against the army establishment-backed federal government.
“How did I find out? Insiders told me. The day before Wazirabad, they made the plan to kill me as they saw the number of people increasing… [They were] using the script of religious extremism,” he said, likening it to the way former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was killed in 2011 by a religious extremist.
“I was hit by four bullets,” said the former cricket captain as he showed the stitches on his calf, seated in a wheelchair, dressed in a blue hospital gown, a drip attached to his arm and a cast on his leg, with the national flag in the background.
He said there were two shooters. The police have so far arrested one man who fired a pistol and two other “suspects”.
He is “out of danger” and has undergone surgery, while one of his supporters died in the attack and at least 13 others, including party leaders, were injured in the firing on Thursday.
The arrested attacker has told the police on camera that he was acting alone — “I was upset as he’s misleading people and weaning them away from Islam’s tenets” — but Mr Khan has blamed three leaders specifically: PM Shehbaz Sharif, internal security minister Rana Sanaullah and Major General Faisal Naseer, who leads the intelligence agency ISI.
The government has denied any role and promised a fair probe.
The attack brought back chilling memories of how another former PM, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated during a rally in 2007. Her killing remains shrouded in mystery as she was campaigning ahead of an election.
Imran Khan has been demanding snap polls ever since his government fell seven months ago after losing the defence establishment’s confidence. He has since been campaigning against the army and intelligence agency ISI’s “interference” that “has undermined democracy by installing a puppet government”.
Once considered a “selection” of the army, the 70-year-old — known for wily moves on the field as a World Cup-winning cricket star — served about four years as PM until last April.
He started his “long march” in October last week to demand resignation of the new government formed by his two main opponents that are each other’s rivals otherwise, the Sharifs’ Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and the Bhuttos’ Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).