Bloodstains, bullet holes return as staple of Pakistani politics – Times of India


WAZIRABAD, PAKISTAN: Imran Khan’s slow “long march” rally has been a hive of activity for days with reporters and aides flooding the former prime minister of Pakistan as he delivered speeches to thousands of supporters.
But on Friday morning, the modified shipping container he often stood on was a blood-stained, bullet-pierced shell – a reminder of Pakistan’s sinister political violence.
“This is a horrible tradition we have,” lamented local businessman Osman Butt, who witnessed the attack on Khan on Thursday.
Khan was shot in the leg and at least 10 others were injured when a gunman fired a volley from the curb.
The shooting has stark echoes of the brutal murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007, who was killed in a suicide bombing when she rose from a vehicle roof hatch in the city of Rawalpindi.
She had survived a previous attack on her column months before.
Khan, 70, was not seriously injured and was able to thank his devoted supporters when he was taken to hospital.
“Imran came out of the container after a while and made the victory sign and asked us to have faith and be patient,” said 28-year-old witness Muhammad Usman, torn between pride and worry.
In the wake of the attack in the eastern city of Wazirabad – where Khan’s march to the capital, which demanded snap elections, came to a halt – teenage boys ripped through the city on motorcycles with party flags waving.
They chanted, “Long live Imran Khan!” above the whine of their engines.
Doctors in Lahore say Khan is making a good recovery, and an assistant said he was expected to be released from hospital later Friday.
Pakistan has been ravaged by decades of militant violence and politicians are often in the crosshairs of assassination attempts.
Khan’s team has warned his life has been in danger since he was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April.
Thursday’s attack — apparently by a lone gunman now in custody — has raised the bar in the South Asian nation, which has been gripped by economic and political turmoil since its three-and-a-half years in power ended. .
A few supporters gathered at the crime scene on Friday morning, some in the red and green of Khan’s Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
“Such incidents will lead to chaos and anarchy,” Ahmad Khan, 25, warned.
Guarded by armed officers, crime scene detectives combed through the container. A police official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said they were conducting a reconstruction of the shooting.
Qadir Khan Sulemankhel, a 37-year-old supporter, said: “Our leader is doing well. He is a brave man and a man of steel who will be joining us here again soon.”
“We are ready to make any sacrifice necessary for our leader,” he said. “We don’t feel demoralized.”

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