Tensions rose in Pakistan on Friday after former Prime Minister Imran Khan accused the establishment of plotting to assassinate him, a claim strongly denied by government and security officials.
A day after he survived a shooting at a political rally outside the town of Gujranwala in Punjab province, Khan gave a rousing speech at a Lahore city hospital where he was being treated for his injuries. Sitting in a wheelchair, the cricket star-turned-politician named three senior figures behind the attack.
The former Pakistani leader suffered a fractured right leg due to stray bullet wounds, Dr. Faisal Sultan told reporters. Sultan showed X-rays showing Khan’s right leg fractured and bullet fragments lodged in two sides of his thigh.
Without providing evidence, Khan accused Prime Minister Shabaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Major General Faisal, who is a senior intelligence official. CNN has reached out to the three men for comment.
Khan claimed for the first time on Thursday that the trio was responsible for the plot, in a statement shared by senior PTI leader Asad Umar, who said he had spoken to Khan recently.
In a televised appearance on Thursday, Sanaullah denied the allegation, calling it “serious”.
The Pakistani military’s media wing on Friday condemned Khan’s claims, calling them “baseless and irresponsible allegations” and threatened legal action.
“No one will be allowed to slander the institution or its soldiers with impunity. In this regard, the Government of Pakistan has been requested to investigate the matter and initiate legal action against those responsible for defaming and making false allegations against the institution and its officials without any evidence,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. .
Pakistan’s intelligence agency also denied Khan’s claims that a senior intelligence officer was behind the shooting, with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) calling the allegations “baseless” in a statement to CNN.
“This is an attempt to undermine the investigation from the beginning. The organization has already alerted the federal government about the threat against the former prime minister, who has informed the Punjab provincial government about it,” the statement said.
The ISI also said that Khan’s security was under the control of the Punjab provincial government, which is led by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
“The firing incident is a security breach by the Punjab government and cannot be attributed to any person or any security agency. The need of the hour is peace in the country and not irresponsible statements,” the ISI said in a statement.
Khan said he knew about the plot to kill him a day before it happened and claimed two gunmen were involved in his attack.
“There was a burst from one side, another from the front. There were two people,” Khan said of the attack.
Khan has been at loggerheads with the government since his dramatic ouster in April in a no-confidence vote. During that time, he repeatedly claimed, without any evidence, that the United States was responsible for his loss of power.
One person was killed in Thursday’s attack, which injured several others and sparked protests by Khan’s supporters.
A video of the alleged attack shows Khan waving from an open-top truck as gunshots rang out, sending members of his party scrambling for cover.
The bullet hit Khan in the leg, said senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Asad Umar, who later added: “Yes, he was shot, there are pellets in his leg, his bone is broken.” was also shot in the thigh.”
A man suspected of firing shots at the rally was arrested Thursday, police said.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s information ministry released a video recording the confession of the unnamed man it said carried out the attack.
Khan called on citizens to protest against the three officers, who he said planned their attack, until they resign.
“Until these three men resign, you must protest, against injustice, you must wage jihad against them, jihad means resisting injustice,” Khan said on Friday.
Khan said that once he recovers from the shooting attack, he will continue his so-called Long March to Islamabad to call for early elections. He was on the seventh day of a nationwide tour that began in Lahore on October 28 and was scheduled to end in Islamabad after winding through several cities in Pakistan.
It is one of many rallies held by the former Pakistan cricket captain since his suspension in April.
Thursday’s incident is not the first time Pakistani politicians have been attacked.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007, while then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani survived an assassination attempt in 2008.