LAHORE, Pakistan -- Pakistan’s interior minister is recovering at a hospital in Lahore from a gunshot wound sustained in an attempted assassination authorities believe was linked to a blasphemy controversy.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was attacked on May 6 in his native Narowal district of Punjab Province, where he had been attending a meeting.
Talal Chaudhry, the minister of state for interior affairs, said Iqbal was hit by a bullet in his arm when a gunman fired a pistol at him from about 20 meters away.
Reports say the gunman was wrestled to the ground by police and bystanders as he was preparing to fire a second shot.
Police arrested a suspect with a pistol that they identified as 21-year-old Abid Hussain.
Reuters cited a police report that said Hussain was affiliated with an Islamist political party called Tehrik-e Labaik, which focuses on fighting what its members deem to be blasphemy against Islam.
A local deputy commissioner, Ali Anan Qamar, quoted the suspect as saying he had carried out the attack over a small amendment to the oath election candidates must swear.
The amendment was hastily reversed in 2017 after it was deemed by the previously little-known Islamist group to be blasphemous.
Labaik’s leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, condemned the attack on Iqbal and said his party had not authorized anyone to take up arms.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also condemned the attack.
Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, called the attempted assassination a "bad omen for upcoming general elections that are supposed to be free, fair, and transparent."
The elections are expected this summer, but observers say the ballot could be delayed.
Iqbal was touted as a potential prime minister after the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court last July over graft allegations.
The 59-year-old Iqbal is a U.S.-educated politician long associated with the party Sharif previously led, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Considered the brains behind the PML-N’s development agenda, Iqbal previously headed Pakistan’s Planning Ministry.