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Supporters Hold Nationwide Protests After Attack On Ex-Pakistan PM Khan


PTI supporters run for cover after police fire a tear gas shell during a protest to condemn an assassination attempt on their leader, former Prime Minister Imran Khan, in Rawalpindi on November 4.

Nationwide rallies were held by supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on November 4, a day after he was targeted in an apparent assassination attempt, with protesters blocking key roads in major cities and clashing with security forces.

Khan's party, Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI), said protests were held in various parts of the country after Friday Prayers. The PTI had earlier called for protests to continue until its demand for political change in Pakistan is met, according to close aide Asad Umar.

Khan, a 70-year-old former cricket star turned politician, was shot in the leg on November 3 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.

One of Khan's supporters was killed and 13 others, including two lawmakers, were wounded in the attack.

Khan has accused the government of being behind the gun attack. The government has condemned the shooting and called for an investigation.

Khan's supporters began gathering early on November 4 at the place where he was shot and urged him to resume his march on Islamabad.

Khan said late on November 4 that he was pausing his march on Islamabad. In his first public remarks since the shooting, Khan pledged to resume his protest once he has recovered from the bullet wound.

"As soon as I recover, I have decided that I will be back on the streets and...will issue the call for a [march on] Islamabad," Khan said, adding that he knew he could be targeted again.

Sitting in a wheelchair with his right leg bandaged and elevated, Khan spoke from the hospital, where he had surgery on November 3. His remarks were broadcast live on television.

In the eastern city of Lahore, where Khan is undergoing treatment, groups of hundreds of supporters gathered in 10 separate locations, burning tires and blocking major roads.

Khan had demanded police investigate Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and intelligence official Major-General Faisal Naseer, alleging they were behind the attack.

Sanaullah has strongly denied the accusation, telling a news conference late on November 3 that he also condemned "such a statement" before the investigation into the attack concluded.

Sharif condemned the shooting on Twitter and ordered an immediate investigation.

The suspected gunman was arrested immediately after the attack and authorities said he later confessed to attempting to murder Khan.

He was allegedly motivated by anger toward Khan's statements equating his political struggle to that of Prophet Muhammad.

Khan was ousted in April in a no-confidence vote after defections by some of his coalition partners, but he retains mass public support in the South Asian country.

Khan lacks backing from Pakistan's powerful military, which has directly ruled the country for more than three of the 7 1/2 decades since independence.

Last month, Pakistan's electoral commission disqualified Khan from running for public office for five years on charges of unlawfully selling gifts received from heads of state during his term in power.

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed South Asian nation with a population of 225 million people, has a long history of political violence.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007 in a gun and bomb attack after holding an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi, next to Islamabad.

Her father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in the same city in 1979 after being deposed by a military coup.

Pakistan's first head of government, Liaquat Ali Khan, was shot dead in 1951, also in Rawalpindi. Several other senior politicians, including ministers and provincial governors, have fallen victim to assassinations since Pakistan was created in 1947.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa