Former Pakistani PM Imran Khan’s party to hold protests after ‘assassination attempt’

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WAZIRABAD, Pakistan, Nov 4 (Reuters) – The party of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was shot and injured in an apparent assassination attempt, said country-wide protests would be held on Friday as tensions remained high in the South Asian nation.

Khan was shot in the leg on Thursday as he waved to crowds from atop a truck-mounted container from which he was leading a protest march on Islamabad to pressure the government for snap polls.

“Today, after Friday prayers, there will be protests across the country, which will continue until Imran Khan’s demand is met,” Asad Umar, a close Khan aide, said on Twitter.

Aside from snap polls, Khan’s party says he is also calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who led a coalition of parties that removed Khan from power through a parliamentary vote in April.

Khan’s supporters began gathering again early on Friday at the spot of the apparent assassination attempt and called on the former prime minister to restart his march on Islamabad.

“The march must go ahead. It cannot stop. People are very angry, it will become more intense,” Ansar Bashir, 40, a Khan supporter who was close to the incident, told Reuters while holding a flag of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

He said he was about 30 feet (10 metres) away from the spot when Khan was hit. Police have cordoned off the area and worked through the night to gather evidence.

Newspapers reporting on the shooting of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, at a newstand in Peshawar, Pakistan, 04 November 2022. Khan suffered a gunshot wound on 03 November after an unidentified attacker opened fire on a crowded rally led by the politician in Wazirabad, officials said. . EPA-EFE/BILAWAL ARBAB 1815

The vehicle Khan was travelling in, a truck-mounted container with a stage on top, remained parked at the site, a busy street with shops in Wazirabad about 200 km (120 miles) east of Islamabad.

Some of the shops had reopened by early morning, but there was an air of apprehension.

“This has given Wazirabad a bad name. He should stop (the protests), more lives will be lost,” said Tahirul Qamar, a medical worker who had come to the market near the scene of the shooting.

Police have not commented publicly on the attack.

Khan spent the night in hospital in Lahore under supervision of doctors, who say his life is not in danger. He is yet to speak publicly on the incident.

Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid, also a member of PTI, told Reuters that two bullets hit Khan in the shin and the thigh.

Khan had demanded police investigate Prime Minister Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and intelligence official Major-General Faisal, alleging they were behind the attack, according to Punjab government spokesperson and PTI leader Mussarat Jamshed Cheema.

Khan and his party have not produced any evidence to support the allegation.

Sharif and Sanaullah have condemned the attack and deny involvement. The military did not respond to a request for comment on Khan’s allegation, but earlier condemned the incident.

Sharif has also called for a transparent inquiry into the shooting, which occurred in an area where Khan’s party is in government.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad in Wazirabad and Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore, Pakistan; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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