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Pakistan's Prime Minister Escapes Attempted Assassination

  • RFE/RL

Bullet-holes in Gilani's car

Bullet-holes in Gilani's car

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has reportedly escaped unharmed after a gunman opened fire on his motorcade near Islamabad.

A government spokesman said two bullets struck Gilani's car as it was traveling between Islamabad and the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi -- headquarters of Pakistan's army -- on September 3.

Television images indicate that the bullets hit the windows of the driver's door. Another car in the motorcade also was hit. No injuries were reported.

There were conflicting reports about whether Gilani was in the vehicle at the time. His spokesman said he was, and escaped unharmed. But security officials later said the prime minister was not in the car at the time of the attack, contradicting Gilani's spokesman.

Regardless, the attack is seen as a sign of turmoil in Pakistan just three days before lawmakers in the country's electoral college are due to elect a new president. It also follows reports on September 3 that aircraft belonging to forces in Afghanistan launched an overnight raid on three houses in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal region.

Gilani is a senior member in the party of Pakistan's assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto -- the Pakistan People's Party, or PPP.

His government is dealing with growing militant violence in Pakistan's border regions near Afghanistan as well as a political crisis following the collapse of the governing coalition.

Gilani became prime minister after the PPP won a general election in February and teamed up with lawmakers from former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party.

In mid-August, Sharif and Zardari's parties worked together to force longtime U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf to quit the presidency.

But soon after Musharraf's resignation, Sharif left the coalition in a dispute about who should succeed Musharraf and how to restore the judges that Musharraf had sacked last year.

Sharif is a popular figure in Pakistan whose party -- the Muslim League of Pakistan-Nawaz -- holds the second-largest number of seats in parliament.

Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the Pakistan People's Party and the widower of the slain Bhutto, is expected to easily win the presidency in the September 6 vote by lawmakers.

Sharif's party is fielding a retired judge as its candidate.