Tensions escalated in Pakistan on Friday as former Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed establishment figures for a plot to kill him – a claim strenuously denied by governing and security officials.
A day after he survived a shooting at a political rally outside the town of Gujranwala, Punjab province, Khan gave a rambling speech at a hospital in the city of Lahore where he was recovering from the injuries he sustained. While sitting in a wheelchair, the cricket star-turned-politician cited three senior figures as being behind the attack.
The former Pakistan leader sustained a fracture to his right leg due to stray bullet wounds, Dr. Faisal Sultan told reporters. Sultan displayed X-rays showing the fracture in Khan’s right leg, and bullet fragments that were lodged in two sides of his thigh.
Without offering evidence, Khan blamed Prime Minister Shabaz Sharif, interior minister Rana Sanaullah and Major General Faisal, who is a senior intelligence official. CNN is reaching out to the three men for comment.
Khan first alleged on Thursday that the trio were responsible for the plot, in a statement shared by PTI senior leader Asad Umar, who said he had recently spoken to Khan.
In a televised address on Thursday, Sanaullah rejected the accusation, calling it “grievous.”
Pakistan’s intelligence agency also refuted Khan’s claims that a senior intelligence official was behind the shooting, with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) telling CNN in a statement that the accusations are “baseless.”
“This is an attempt to prejudice the investigation from the very beginning. The organization had already sensitized the federal government about the threat to the former prime minister, who had communicated this to the Punjab provincial government,” the statement read.
The ISI also said that Khan’s security was under the authority of the provincial government of Punjab, which is led by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
“The security of the former PM was the responsibility of the PTI led government in the province of Punjab. The incident of the shooting is a security lapse on behalf of the government of Punjab and cannot be attributed to any individual or any security agency. The need of the hour is for calm in the country and not for irresponsible statements,” the ISI said in a statement.
Khan had said he knew about the plot to kill him a day before it happened, and claimed there were two shooters involved in his attack.
“There was a burst from one side, and another coming from the front. There were two people,” Khan said when talking about the attack.
Khan has locked horns with the government since his dramatic ouster in a no-confidence vote in April. During that time, he repeatedly claimed, without any evidence, that the United States was behind his loss of power.
One person died in Thursday’s attack which injured several others and prompted protests among Khan’s supporters.
Video of the alleged attack shows Khan waving from an open-topped truck, when shots rang out, sending his party members ducking for cover.
A bullet hit Khan in the leg, said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senior leader Asad Umar, who later added: “Yes, he has been shot, there are pellets lodged in his leg, his bone has been chipped, he has also been shot in his thigh.”
A man suspected of firing shots at the rally was detained on Thursday, according to the police.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information released a video of a confession from an unnamed man who it claims carried out the attack.
Khan called on citizens to protest against the three officials he alleges planned his attack until they resign.
“As long as these three men don’t resign, you have to protest, against unfairness, you must do a jihad against them, jihad means to stand against injustice,” Khan said Friday.
Khan said as soon as he recovers from his shooting attack he will resume his so-called Long March to Islamabad calling for early elections. He was on the seventh day of the nationwide tour, which started in Lahore on October 28 and was due to finish in Islamabad after winding through several Pakistani cities.
It’s among a number of rallies the former Pakistani cricket captain has held since his ousting in April.
Thursday’s incident is not the first time that Pakistani politicians have been attacked.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007, and then-Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani survived an assassination attempt in 2008.