Pakistan’s counter-terrorism department on Wednesday warned against another threat on former prime minister Imran Khan’s life. The alert stated that the 70-year-old PTI chief, who recently suffered bullet injuries in a shooting at Wazirabad, could be attacked by one of multiple religious extremist factions such as Tehreek-e-Labbaik, IS-Khorasan or even al-Qaeda.
The neighbouring country’s interior ministry issued the life threat alert as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) gets ready to resume its so-called long march, or ‘Haqeeqi Azadi March’. The alert read that Imran could be attacked by a Tehreek-e-Labbaik member, or by the Islamic State-Khorasan for supporting Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen. It further stated that a dormant al-Qaeda could also attack him as it has a “penchant” for conducting attacks with “strategic implications”.
Such alerts were issued earlier as well before the cricketer-turned-politician was targeted at one of Imran’s political rallies in Wazirabad area of Punjab province on November 3, when he had suffered bullet injuries in the right leg as two gunmen fired at him and others. Punjab Police had named Naveed Mohammad Basheer, the assailant who was taken into custody, as the prime accused in the case and filed an FIR against him.
The former PM, who was discharged from hospital after receiving treatment for his injuries, is resuming his long march to Islamabad this week. He has been leading a massive protest campaign against the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led government since his ouster in April to demand snap elections and, as per political analysts, to put pressure on the government and the military to manipulate the selection of a new army chief in his favour.
On Monday, interior minister Rana Sanaullah, too, talked about Imran facing a threat from the country’s “enemy agency” but if anything happened to him the real culprits will go scot free and the entire blame will shift to the army, the ISI, himself and Prime Minister Sharif.
“It’s tragic that this man (Imran), this unblessed man, has brought the country to a stage where if he exits or something happens to him, he will be a source of chaos, anarchy and evildoing for the country,” Sanaullah was quoted as saying by Geo News.
“Every enemy and every enemy agency of Pakistan are after his (Imran’s) life,” the minister said without giving any specific name or details. Asked to specify what kind of outfits or individuals were after Imran, the interior minister said those who wanted chaos, anarchy and civil war in Pakistan and wanted the people to fight and kill each other.
He said if something happened to Imran, it would bring a storm of embarrassment to the state of Pakistan. “If something happens (to Imran) – may it not be so and I pray for his long life – then the finger would be pointed at the Pakistan Army, the ISI, myself, and the prime minister because he has already got four names taped,” Sanaullah said.
The PTI last week moved the Supreme Court to get an FIR registered against PM Sharif, Sanaullah and top army general and ISI Counter Intelligence Wing head Major General Faisal Naseer for allegedly hatching a plot to assassinate Imran.
The assassination bid on Imran and sporadic violence in its aftermath, as well as heightened anticipation over the appointment of the army chief has pushed Pakistan to the brink of anarchy. Amid the ongoing political crisis since his ouster, the ruling PML-N has rejected the PTI chief’s proposal of a snap election and said the next general polls will be held in August 2023.
The attempt on Imran’s life, however, added more fuel to the fire with the fear of civil conflict looming large and a possible collapse of state institutions. The ousted PM had accused Sharif of being involved, which has significantly pushed Pakistan into a “dangerous phase”, as per political analysts. They added that as the pressure rose, the government’s dependence on the country’s “deep state” – a term often used to refer to the powerful military – for its survival was increasing.
(With PTI inputs)
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