Tensions escalated in Pakistan on Friday after former Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed the establishment for a plot to assassinate him – a claim denied by administration and security officials.
A day after he survived being shot at a political rally outside the city of Gujranwala in Punjab province, Khan gave a rousing speech at a hospital in Lahore where he is recovering from his injuries. While sitting in a wheelchair, the cricket star-turned-politician named three senior officials behind the attack.
Dr. Faisal Sultan told reporters that the former Pakistani leader suffered a fracture in his right leg due to gunshot wounds. Sultan showed an X-ray showing a fracture on Khan’s right leg and bullet fragments lodged in both sides of his thigh.
Without providing evidence, Khan blamed Prime Minister Shabaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanallah and senior intelligence official Major General Faisal. CNN is reaching out to all three people for comment.
Khan had initially said the three were responsible for the conspiracy on Thursday, in a statement shared by senior PTI leader Asad Umar, who said he had spoken to Khan recently.
In a televised address on Thursday, Sanaullah dismissed the allegations as “sad”.
The Pakistan Army’s media wing on Friday condemned Khan’s claims as “baseless and irresponsible allegations” and threatened legal action.
“Nobody is allowed to defame the institution or the soldiers. Keeping this in mind, the Government of Pakistan has been requested to investigate the matter and take legal action against those responsible for defamation and false allegations against the institution and its officials without any evidence. .
Pakistan’s intelligence agency has denied Khan’s claim that a senior intelligence official was behind the attack, calling the allegations “baseless” in a statement to CNN.
“This is an attempt to counter the investigation from the very beginning. The organization informed the Punjab state government about this and informed the federal government in advance because it was concerned about the former prime minister,” the statement said.
The ISI also oversees Khan’s security in the Punjab province, which is headed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
“The firing incident is a security concern on behalf of the Punjab government and cannot be attributed to any individual or any security agency. The need of the hour is stability in the country and not irresponsible statements,” the ISI said in a statement.
Khan said he was aware of the plot to kill him a day before it took place and said there were two shooters involved in the attack.
“There was an explosion from one side, and another one coming from the front. There were two people,” Khan said of the attack.
Khan has locked horns with the government since April’s no-confidence vote. At the time, he repeatedly claimed, without any evidence, that the United States was behind the loss of power.
Several were injured and one person died in Thursday’s attack, which sparked protests among Khan’s supporters.
A video of the alleged attack shows Khan waving from an elevated truck, sending his party members for cover as gunshots rang out.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senior leader Asad Umar said, “Yes, he was shot, there are bullets in his leg, his bones were cut, he was shot in the leg.” He was also shot in the thigh,” he said.
The suspect who fired at the demonstration was arrested on Thursday, the police announced.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information released a video showing the confession of an unnamed man who claimed to have carried out the attack.
Khan called on citizens to protest until the resignation of the three officials he said had planned the attack.
“Until these three people step down, you have to resist, against injustice, you have to wage jihad against them. Jihad means against injustice,” Khan said on Friday.
Khan said that once he recovers from the shooting, he will continue his call for the Long March to Islamabad for early elections. It was on the seventh day of a national tour that started in Lahore on October 28 and was to end in Islamabad after visiting various cities of Pakistan.
It was one of several protests by the Pakistan cricket captain since his ouster in April.
Thursday’s incident is not the first time Pakistani politicians have come under attack.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007, while current Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani survived an assassination attempt in 2008.