The man who attacked Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has shown his affiliation to Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, said an initial investigation report. An anti-terrorism court sent him into police custody for 10 days.
The man opened fire Sunday on the senior Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz leader as he was leaving a corner meeting in his constituency, Narowal, which lies near the border with India.
According to an initial police report by the Narowal deputy commissioner, the gunman, identified as Abid Hussain, has been arrested and showed his affiliation to Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah.
Tehreek Labbaik is a religious group run by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, calling for the aggressive enforcement of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which can carry the death penalty. Rizvi has denied involvement of his group and condemned the incident.
On the other hand, the police have also arrested two suspected facilitators of Hussain. The two men, Gulfam and Azam, have been shifted to an undisclosed location for interrogation, said the police.
According to the report, the culprit took advantage of the crowd and opened fire on Iqbal from a distance of 15 feet. He used a pistol of 30 bore calibre. The Elite Force arrested the shooter, said the report. The suspect belongs to Shakar Garh and had come to attend the corner meeting on his motorcycle. His motorcycle has also been impounded while further investigations are underway.
Motive to kill
An FIR No 73/18 has been registered in the name of ASI Muhammad Ishaq at the Ghareeb Shah police station. It contains sections pertaining to murder, intention to murder, possession of unlicensed weapon and terrorism. The suspect will be produced before an anti-terrorism court shortly. According to the FIR, the 21-year-old suspect shot at Iqbal with the motive to kill him.
Bullet still inside convalescing Iqbal
Doctors said Iqbal, 59, is out of danger but is still at the ICU under observation for the next 24 hours at the Services Hospital, Lahore.
Two bullets hit Iqbal in the arm and one of them pierced through his elbow into his stomach. While doctors have operated upon his broken elbow to repair it, the bullet has not been removed after consultation with experts.
“I met my father after the operation and he is conscious now,” said his son, Ahmed Iqbal. “Such cowardly attacks will not deter our resolve.”
Blasphemy and Tehreek Labbaik
A senior government official said early information suggested Iqbal had been returning from a meeting with a Christian group. “We are not sure whether it has got anything to do with the motive. We will know only after investigation of the attacker .”
Blasphemy is a deeply emotional and politically charged issue in Pakistan, even more so since Labaik has emerged in the past year.
The party was born out of a protest movement supporting Mumtaz Qadri, a bodyguard of the governor of Punjab who gunned down his boss in 2011 over his call to relax Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.
Labaik has been gaining strength with an election platform centered on punishing blasphemy.
Many of its supporters say PML-N, despite repeated denials, wants to ease the blasphemy laws. While dozens are on death row for blasphemy, no one has been executed in recent decades.
Violence has been a feature of pre-election periods in Pakistan over the past decade, mainly due to Islamist assassinations of political figures, including former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
Militant attacks in Pakistan have fallen sharply over the past few years, but Islamist fighters continue to pose a threat and carry out assassinations.
In the run-up to the 2013 elections, which PML-N won handsomely, Pakistani Taliban militants killed more than 70 people in attacks targeting the Awami National Party (ANP), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Many of their most prominent candidates were prevented from campaigning openly.
Condemnations pour in
While PML-N leaders, including the PM, and opposition leaders condemned the attack, condemnations also poured in from across the world.
“The United States condemns the attack on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal today. We wish him a speedy recovery,” the US ambassador, David Hale, said in a statement.
On the other hand, former PM Nawaz Sharif said the attack was linked to the money that was distributed among the Faizabad protesters. “Everyone knows why Rs1,000 was handed out to each participant of the Faizabad sit-in,” he said. “[The attack on Ahsan Iqbal] was the result of this distribution of money.” Reuters