Airlifted to Lahore hospital, out of danger; Report says bone fractured; Culprit arrested, being interrogated by police; President Mamnoon, PM Abbasi, Shahbaz, Zardari, Gen Bajwa, Bilawal, Imran and other leaders condemn attack; Protest in Narowal
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was shot at and injured during a corner meeting in Narowal’s Kanjrur tehsil on Sunday, in what Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif described as an “assassination attempt”.
The assailant shot at the interior minister from a distance of 20 yards as the latter entered his vehicle to leave the rally ground, confirmed DPO Imran Kishwar.
The minister was airlifted from Narowal and brought to Services Hospital in Lahore for a surgery to remove a bullet that had pierced into his body. The doctors after the removal of bullet from his body has termed the condition of the minister satisfactory.
An initial report issued by the police had said Iqbal’s bone was fractured after he received a bullet in his right shoulder.
The Punjab Chief Minister, condemning the attack, said: “Just spoke to him and he is in high spirits.” He is currently present at the hospital where the interior minister is being treated for his wounds.
District Police Officer Imran Kishwar told media that Iqbal was shot by the assailant – who was also present at the corner meeting – with a 30-bore pistol from a distance of 20 yards. The minister sustained a bullet wound in his right shoulder, the DPO added.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also confirmed that the interior minister was out of danger.
The interior minister was initially shifted to District Headquarters Hospital Narowal following the attack, but was later airlifted in a helicopter to Lahore. PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry also confirmed that minister’s condition was stable and he was out of danger.
The shooter was taken into custody. He was identified as a local 20 to 22-year-old youth Abid Hussain residing in the jurisdiction of the Shah Gharib police station in Kanjrur tehsil.
The Punjab government, confirming the arrest, said the suspect “is being interrogated by the police”. The Chief Minister sought a report from IG Punjab and has directed the authorities to take action against the culprit.
The incident took place when Ahsan Iqbal was leaving the meeting, held at MPA Rana Manan’s residence. He was returning to his vehicle when he was shot. The culprit has been shifted to an undisclosed location.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sent his official helicopter to Narowal to airlift the minister to Lahore. The chief minister and other members of his cabinet received Ahsan Iqbal at old airport.
An eyewitness told media that people accompanying the minister grabbed the shooter, beat him up and handed him over to police for interrogation.
The suspect told interrogators that he was a member of a religious party and that he did it over Khatam-e-Nubawwat issue.
Ahmed Iqbal, son of Ahsan Iqbal, said that first aid was given to his father at the DHQ hospital. “My father is out of danger now, but we are shifting him to Lahore for medical care,” he said, urging the nation to pray for his father’s recovery.
Shahbaz Sharif tweeted: “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.”
Meanwhile, the provincial health department declared emergency situation at Doctors Hospital as well. It also asked orthopaedics and neurosurgeons in Services Hospital to remain on alert.
An initial report issued by the police said Ahsan Iqbal’s bone was fractured after he received a bullet in his right shoulder. Workers of Pakistan Muslim League-N, standing near the assailant, tackled the man after he opened fire at the minister, said Punjab Government Spokesperson Malik Ahmed Khan. He further said the suspect was stopped from firing a second shot.
Meanwhile, gun attack on Ahsan Iqbal prompted protests in Narowal city on Sunday, said a private news channel. PML-N supporters burnt tyres and blocked roads after Ahsan was shot and injured in his native town.
Malik Ahmed Khan, a spokesman for the Punjab government, told media Ahsan Iqbal had been attending the meeting in his constituency in Narowal district when he was shot in the right arm.
Ahsan Iqbal is a US-educated lawmaker from a political family long associated with the PML-N. Considered the brain behind the party’s development agenda, he previously headed up the planning ministry.
Meanwhile, President Mamnoon Hussain strongly condemned the attack on the interior minister and sympathized with his family.
He said that intolerance was cancerous for the society and biggest hurdle for stability. President Mamnoon said that any attempt to create violence and chaos in the country would be quashed.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbai telephoned Ahsan Iqbal to inquire after his health and prayed for his full recovery.
The Prime Minister also strongly condemned the assassination attempt. The premier called for an immediate report into the incident from IG Police Punjab.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa condemned the attack on Ahsan Iqbal and expressed best wishes for his early recovery, said DG ISPR Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor in a tweet.
Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attack, saying, “We have to put a stop to such incidents.”
Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan also strongly condemned the coward attack on country’s interior minister. Bilawal termed attack an open challenge to state.
Leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah condemning the assassination attempt on Ahsan said, “This incident has raised a major question mark on the security situation in the country and there is a dire need to have foolproof security arrangements in place for the upcoming general elections.” Leader of the Opposition in Senate Sherry Rehman prayed for the minister’s early recovery and expressed solidarity with his family.
“I am shocked and saddened at the attack on Ahsan Iqbal. This is a cowardly act which will not deter him. I pray for his full and quick recovery. May Allah protect us all,” Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said in a tweet.
“Political differences notwithstanding, physical targeting of any politician is simply not acceptable. Sadly, intolerance and violence are becoming endemic in our society,” PTI’s Shireen Mazari said in her tweet.
Also condemning the incident, Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq demanded that the hidden elements behind the incident be uncovered. “Unseen forces behind the attack must be unveiled,” he added.