Lahore — Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was injured on Sunday in an assassination attempt when an unidentified man opened fire at him in Punjab province after he addressed a political rally, police said. Iqbal, 59, was hit by a bullet on his right shoulder in the attack in his native Narowal’s Kanjrur Tehsil after he addressed a rally, the police said.
The incident took place when the US-educated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader was leaving the rally. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi condemned the attack and called for an immediate report into the incident from top police officials of Punjab province. Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif described the incident as an “assassination attempt”.
Iqbal’s son said that his father was out of danger. The attacker fired with a 30-bore pistol from a distance of around 18 metres. The attacker was about to fire a second shot when he was apprehended, police said. However, the reason behind the attack was not immediately known.
Sharif said: “Just spoke to him and he is in high spirits… Those who indulged in this heinous act will be brought to justice. PML-N will not be browbeaten into submission. I am personally overseeing the investigation”. Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmad Khan confirmed the attack and arrest of the attackers. He said the minister is stable but being shifted to Lahore.
“Police are investigating the attack and we will know how he (attacker) was able to reach so close to the minister,” he said. He said that the attacker was initially identified as Abid Hussian and his age was said to be between 20-22 years. He is said to be a resident of Narowal. The Punjab government said that the suspect “is being interrogated by the police”.
Rana Manan, a lawmaker of Punjab assembly, said that Iqbal was about to sit in his vehicle when the attacker fired at him. The attack on the interior minister highlights the issue of security of high-profile politicians ahead of the elections scheduled to be held after June.
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa also condemned the incident and sent his best wishes for Iqbal’s early recovery. Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto and other Pakistan Peoples Party leaders also condemned the attack.