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Pakistan's Military Rejects Khan's Accusations Of Government-Orchestrated Assassination Attempt

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks with reporters from a hospital in Lahore on November 4, a day after an assassination attempt on him during a march near Wazirabad.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks with reporters from a hospital in Lahore on November 4, a day after an assassination attempt on him during a march near Wazirabad.

Pakistan's powerful military on November 5 rejected former Prime Minister Imran Khan's accusations that the assassination attempt that he survived on November 3 had been orchestrated by the government and elements from the intelligence services.

Khan, a 70-year-old former cricket star turned politician, was shot in the leg 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 early elections.

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

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 the Prophet Muhammad.

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

In a November 4 video recorded from the Lahore hospital where he was being treated, Khan said there was a plan to kill him.

The government has condemned the shooting and called for an investigation, while Sanaullah has strongly denied the accusation.

The press service of the Pakistan Army said in a statement late on November 4 that Khan's accusations leveled against Nasser were "baseless" and "irresponsible."

Nationwide rallies were held on November 4 after Khan called on his supporters to take to the streets, with protesters blocking key roads in major cities and clashing with security forces.

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

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 said late on November 4 that he was pausing his march on Islamabad but pledged to resume his protest once he has recovered.

“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.

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 military, which has directly ruled the country for more than three of the almost eight decades since independence and has an oversized influence on political life.

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