- An armed attack on Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, which supporters say was an assassination attempt, has drawn international condemnation.
Mr. Khan, 70, is recovering in hospital after being shot in the leg on Thursday at a protest march in Warzirabad, in the northeast of the country.
His camp said he was in stable condition and could leave the hospital in the coming days.
The attack on Mr. Khan has electrified the country. Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has called for nationwide protests after Friday prayers. Schools have been closed in the capital, Islamabad.
Pakistan’s leaders have condemned the attack on their opponent, with President Arif Alvi calling it a “heinous assassination attempt”. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordering an immediate investigation.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also called for calm. Saying: “Violence has no place in politics, and we call on all parties to refrain from violence, harassment, and intimidation.”
The cricket star-turned-politician remains popular with voters but was ousted in April in a parliamentary vote.
Since then he has been struggling to return to the office. Buoyed by the TIP’s heavy victories in recent local elections, Khan had been leading a “long march” of protests calling for early elections to facilitate his return.
He has characterized his ouster as a political conspiracy and has for months criticized the current government and military leaders. Courts have convicted him in recent corruption cases, but he has challenged the verdicts as politically motivated.
Pakistan has a history of political violence, with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto assassinated in 2007. Many evoked his murder in the wake of the attack on Mr. Khan.
The country is also recovering from an ongoing economic crisis and devastating floods.
How the attack unfolded
On Thursday, he was standing in an open van surrounded by aides and other members of his party when the shooting began.
It was the seventh day of his long march, which he intended to reach Islamabad next week. His truck was in Wazirabad, about 100 km (60 miles) from Lahore.
Survivors of the convoy told the BBC that Khan had been waving to his supporters and was about to start talking to the crowd when gunfire rang out.
“We could see the attacker from the top of the container,” Mueezuddin, a member of the party’s staff, told the BBC.
“We saw that the attacker had emptied an entire magazine… [And] he had carried another magazine when he was grabbed by a child from behind.”
He added: “It was so sudden that it took me a while to understand what was going on.”
Mueezuddin said Khan and those around him quickly ducked after the first shots, and when he was beaten he remained calm while his bodyguards gave him first aid.
He was then taken to a bulletproof car and taken to a hospital in Lahore.
Footage of the incident and eyewitness accounts suggested a security guard was also seen firing from the container.
Punjab Prime Minister Pervez Elahi has suggested there may have been more than one attacker, saying Khan had been “shot in the leg from the front, while the alleged attacker who was caught in the act was on the right side.”
Controversy over possible motive
Immediately after the shooting, some of his allies told the media that Khan believed current political leaders — Prime Minister Sharif, the interior minister, and a military general — were behind the attack.
A spokesman, Raoof Hasan, told the BBC’s Newshour program that the government was “trying to eliminate [Imran Khan] physically”.
Pakistan’s leaders have yet to address such accusations.
Police on Tuesday night released a video confession from the man they said had attempted to kill Mr. Khan.
It is unclear what conditions the interview was conducted under. But in response to police who asked him why he had opened fire, he said: “He was deceiving people. He wanted to kill him. I tried to kill him.”
The video has been dismissed by Mr. Khan’s allies as a “cover-up.”
One suspect remains in custody, but no charges have been filed.
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