Deadlock over the filing of an FIR for the assassination attempt of former Prime Minister Imran Khan remains as he refuses to withdraw the name of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif a top Army general from his complaint.
Khan was shot on Thursday in Pakistan's Punjab province during a protest march. A gun-wielding man fired a volley of bullets at him, which hit him in the right leg. He survived the attack and is now in stable condition.
Following the shooting, Khan named three people as having conspired to assassinate him — Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Sanaullah Khan, and Major General Faisal Sharif. He alleged the plan was to kill him in a manner similar to the killing of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in 2011.
Khan also said that an FIR was not being registered as some people were afraid of some names.
Pakistan Punjab government in a fix
Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi is caught between ‘the devil and the deep blue sea’ as Khan, who essentially calls the shots for the ruling coalition in Punjab, continues to insist on naming Faisal in the FIR, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The matter was also taken up by the Punjab Cabinet during its meeting on Friday, which was attended by police chief Faisal Shahkar as well as other senior government officials and the provincial law minister. An official privy to the development told the newspaper that the meeting discussed the serious issues pertaining to all the legal aspects of the registration of a case. The official said the meeting also discussed that a further delay in the registration of a case could spoil all efforts to secure evidence and punish the suspects involved in the armed attack on Khan's container truck in Wazirabad.
Sharing the political dimensions of the issue, the source said Elahi was against the ‘logic’ of naming Faisal in the case.
Elahi and PTI leaders held many meetings on the issue where the former attempted to convince them to drop Faisal's name, the source added.
"The matter of filing an application with the police was under discussion between the PTI (ruling coalition partner) and the Punjab government," he said.
He said the police chief conveyed to the government that the FIR had been the first authentic document about the commission of the cognisable offence to start investigations.
Unfortunately, the investigation process in this respect has come to a grinding halt, despite the detention of three suspects, including the alleged shooter who was caught from the spot, and two more suspects who provided the weapon.
At the Cabinet meeting, the police chief told other participants that the police had not received any application to register the FIR of an assassination attempt on Khan.
Regarding the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), the Punjab police were of the opinion it would be premature to form a JIT before even lodging the case.
The meeting remained inconclusive when it was apprised that Elahi and the PTI’s top leadership would discuss the matter in another round of meetings to be held late on Friday.
The PTI leaders, however, decided to hand over a copy of the application to the Chief Minister after taking a final decision in the meetings.
Pakistan Army rubbishes allegations
Following Khan's allegations that a top Army general was involved in the attempt on his life, the Pakistan Army rejected the allegations as "baseless and irresponsible".
The Army said, "The baseless and irresponsible allegations by chairman PTI against the institution and particularly a senior army officer are absolutely unacceptable and uncalled for. The baseless allegations hurled at the institution/officials today are highly regrettable and strongly condemned.
"No one will be allowed to defame the institution or its soldiers with impunity. Keeping this in view, the government of Pakistan has been requested to investigate the matter and initiate legal action against those responsible for defamation and false accusations against the institution and its officials without any evidence whatsoever."
The Imran Khan-Army tussle
Khan has been taking on the all-powerful Pakistan Army for some time in a way that fails to find precedent in Pakistan's history.
Just last week, Pakistan military and spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on Thursday went all out against Khan and said that he had asked Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to do "illegal and unconstitutional" acts.
ISI chief Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum further said that Bajwa was given a "lucrative offer" in March by Khan's government amidst the political turmoil at the time.
Khan was ousted as prime minister in April after he failed the no-confidence vote. Since before his ouster, Khan has been alleging a foreign conspiracy against him. Since his ouster, he has labelled the Sharif-led government as "foreign" and "imported" and has targeted state organs of conspiring against him. Khan has allged that the United States ousted him for the pursuit of an independent foreign policy. He cited a letter written to Foreign Office by a Pakistani diplomatic mission abroad, which mentioned that the host country had said relations with Pakistan would suffer if Khan remained prime minister.
"(Khan's criticism) is because the military and its chief refused to do illegal or unconstitutional things," Anjum said, as per Reuters, and added that the military had made a policy decision to stay out of politics, and hence turned down Khan's persistent requests.
"It [the lucrative offer] was made in front of me. He [Bajwa] rejected it because he wanted the institution to move forward from a controversial role to a constitutional role," said Anjum.
Outlook earlier reported that Khan is taking on the Pakistani military publicly and observers wonder whether Pakistani military has for real withdrawn from politics or whether their clout is down.
Outlook's Seema Guha noted, "These questions are being asked primarily because Imran Khan is taking on General Qamar Javed Bajwa and his top aides publicly. He is blaming them for siding with his rivals...But going by what is happening on the ground, something is afoot. But are observers making too much of it and the current situation is the usual jockeying for power among powerful generals all eyeing the top post?"
Former Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad TCA Raghavan told Outlook, "There are some in Pakistan who have been positing that the political feuding in Pakistan is only the expression of divisions within the Army and that one section supports Imran Khan for he would not have gone to the lengths he did without some support of this kind. There is no evidence for this theory and possibly will not be for some time but it does have a certain currency.
"In my view, there may be some sympathy for Imran Khan in the military — not in any conspiratorial sense but in the same way as there is in the rest of the country. But it is likely that his political agenda is of his own making. The military's control over politicians is never absolute and it is true that it has been reducing progressively over the years."
What we know of the attack so far
Khan was shot on Thursday when he leading a protest march in Pakistan's Punjab province.
One man was killed and seven others were injured in the shooting.
Three suspects have so far been arrested in the case, with the shooter claiming that he attacked Khan as he was "misleading" people. He has been identified as Naveed Ahmad, as per AFP.
The suspect caught by police has said that he wanted to kill Khan because “he was misleading the public.”
"He (Khan) was misleading the people and I could not bear watching it so I… attempted to kill him,” he said in a video confession.
Two others arrested in the case have been identified as Sajid Butt and Waqas. Responding to a question, an official said they are believed to have sold the pistol and bullets to the prime suspect Naveed for Rs 20,000. He said the key suspect was handed over to the Gujranwala Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officers for further interrogation.
A senior police officer told Dawn that a set of blunders had been noticed by the law enforcement agencies while examining the footage of the crime scene recorded by a dozen CCTV cameras. The biggest of the blunders was the security lapse that must be put on the priority in the starting phase of investigations into the incident, he said.
He said the Punjab police chief had taken up this issue with the provincial government in Friday’s meeting of the sub-Cabinet committee, where he unveiled that Khan’s private security had violated the advisory issued by the police, the newspaper reported.
(With PTI inputs)