ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Clashes broke out in cities across Pakistan on Friday, a day after a gunman wounded former Prime Minister Imran Khan at a rally.
Mr. Khan’s supporters blocked major highways, set fires and clashed with the police, who responded with tear gas in one clash outside the capital, Islamabad. The violence broke out a day after Mr. Khan who was shot in the legs on Thursday in Punjab Province as he was leading a political rally. One bystander was killed and several others were injured in the attack.
The gunman was arrested immediately by the police, and a man identified as the suspect said in a police video leaked to the news media that he acted alone.
On Friday, Mr. Khan made a video appearance from a hospital in Lahore. Sitting in a wheelchair and dressed in a blue hospital gown, Mr. Khan said he would resume his protest campaign for early national elections as soon as he recuperates.
“I will be back on the roads as soon as I get well,” Mr. Khan said in a long address. He demanded the removal of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the country’s interior minister, and a senior army intelligence official, accusing the trio of hatching a conspiracy to assassinate him.
Pakistani officials deny Mr. Khan’s accusations and asserted that religious fanaticism was the motive of the attack on Mr. Khan. And the country’s powerful military apparatus condemned Mr. Khan’s claims, saying in a statement that “no one will be allowed to defame the institution or its soldiers with impunity.”
Earlier in the day, furious protesters clashed with the police in several cities. A large number of his supporters tried to enter Islamabad from neighboring Rawalpindi and were stopped by heavy tear gas shelling from the capital’s police force. Officials said protesters set several vehicles and motorbikes on fire as clashes continued for several hours, lasting into the evening.
“The current situation reflects a sharp deterioration of the quality of politics in Pakistan, and it seems headed toward more violence,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a political analyst based in Lahore.
In Lahore, protesters tried to enter the Governor’s House, broke security cameras at the entrance, and threw stones at the colonial-era building. Mr. Khan’s supporters also tried to enter the city’s military cantonment area, which houses military buildings and residential neighborhoods, but were stopped by the police.
Clashes also erupted in some parts of the southern port city of Karachi, where at least 20 people were arrested when protesters blocked the main thoroughfare. Mr. Khan’s supporters also blocked the entrance of a highway in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Mr. Khan was removed from office after a no-confidence vote in the parliament earlier in April. He has blamed his ouster on a conspiracy by the United States, the country’s military, and his political opponents. American officials and Pakistani military and government officials deny those accusations.
Since his removal, Mr. Khan has made a stunning political comeback, winning several by-elections, and he has demanded early national elections. But the governing coalition led by Mr. Sharif has said it would not move the vote up from its scheduled spot in August next year.
The police have yet to register a case or issue a preliminary report on the gun attack, which happened in Waziribad.
In the police video, the suspect was identified as Naveed Ahmed, a laborer who said he was acting out of religious reasons.
“I have no regret except that I was not able to kill Imran Khan,” Mr. Ahmed said, adding that he was enraged because Mr. Khan had portrayed himself as a prophet.
Mr. Khan and his supporters and other political observers say Mr. Khan has never made such a claim.
During the news briefing on Friday, Mr. Khan claimed that he had been aware since September of plots to attack him. And he called on the country’s army chief to take action against what he called “black sheep” within the security services.
Source: NY Times