Imran Khan's party has announced that it will hold countrywide protests after Friday prayers to press for snap elections, a demand set by the former premier, who was in a stable condition following surgery after being injured in an assassination bid.
Khan, 70, suffered a bullet injury in the right leg when a gun-wielding man fired a volley of bullets at him and others mounting on a container-mounted truck in the Wazirabad area of Punjab province, where he was leading a protest march against the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
PTI demanding fresh elections
Secretary-General of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Asad Umar tweeted that the anti-government protests would continue until their demands are accepted.
“Today after Friday prayer, a countrywide protest will be organised. Until demands of Imran Khan are accepted, the countrywide protest will continue,” Umar said on Thursday.
He didn’t specify the demands but Khan has been demanding fresh elections and launched a long march to Islamabad on October 28 to press the government to accept his demands.
Khan stable, determined to resume protests
Khan, 70, is stable after an attempt on his life and determined to continue his political struggle to press the government to call for an early election, the party has said.
Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader from Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI), alleged it was “a planned assassination attempt on Imran Khan and he escaped narrowly”. "The assassin planned to kill Imran Khan and the leadership of the PTI. It was not 9MM, it was a burst from an automatic weapon. No two opinions that it was a narrow escape,” he tweeted on Thursday.
Police had said that one person was killed while seven were injured. The Dawn newspaper, however, reported on Friday that 14 persons were injured in addition to one killed.
Khan was shifted by road to his own-built Shaukat Khanum medical facility in Lahore where an operation was performed and was stable after it, according to his party. The party also said that Khan was determined to continue his protest march.
“I will not bow down, but stay determined to bring Haqeeqi Azadi (real freedom) for my fellow Pakistanis,” the party's official Twitter handle quoted Khan as saying, adding the march would resume from Wazirabad at 11am on Friday.
‘Largest ever long march’
Khan launched his march on October 28 from Lahore with the aim to reach Islamabad on November 4 to hold a rally for forcing the government to announce fresh elections.
But the marchers moved slowly and later changed the arrival to Islamabad, now expected to reach on November 11.
So far the government has not allowed the PTI to hold a rally in the capital while the Islamabad High Court reserved its judgment on a petition to allow the protest rally in Islamabad.
The attacker was arrested and a confessional video was also issued. But the PTI linked the attack to a wider conspiracy and held Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Major General Faisal (Naseer) responsible for it.
Meanwhile, police officers and other officials in Pakistan's Punjab province have been suspended by chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi for leaking the suspected attacker's confessional video statement after the gun attack on Khan.
Pakistan's Interior Ministry has asked the Punjab provincial government to constitute a high-level joint investigation team (JIT) to bring facts to light in connection with the attack.
On US involvement
The United States on Thursday condemned the attack and said violence has no place in politics and America is deeply committed to a democratic and peaceful Pakistan.
“The United States strongly condemns the shooting of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and others at a political rally. We wish Imran Khan and all others who were injured a quick and thorough recovery, and we offer our condolences to the family of the individual who was killed,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“Violence has no place in politics, and we call on all parties to refrain from violence, harassment, and intimidation. The United States is deeply committed to a democratic and peaceful Pakistan, and we stand with the Pakistani people,” Blinken said in a statement.
Khan has time and again alleged a “foreign conspiracy” led by the US to stage his ouster from the post of Prime Minister in April. He has also repeatedly raised alarm claiming his life is in danger.
(With inputs from PTI)