Pakistan Interior Minister recovering after assassination attempt


A man accused of shooting Pakistan's interior minister in a suspected assassination attempt possibly linked to blasphemy appeared in court Monday (May 7), with the attack seen as an ominous sign for security ahead of nationwide elections.

Junior interior minister Talal Chaudhry said Iqbal was hit by a bullet in his arm in the attack in Narowal district, his constituency in central Punjab province.

According to the announcement, the Punjab government formed a five-member joint investigation team (JIT), comprising members from the police department as well as intelligence agencies, to conduct an investigation into the attack.

After the shooting he was rushed first to a local hospital and then airlifted to Lahore, where video footage released by his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) showed him being lowered from a helicopter on a stretcher, his eyes open as he responded to questions.

"He is conscious and out of danger", Ahmad Iqbal told Geo News.

"He's stable... he's ok", a hospital official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

The attack was swiftly condemned by the worldwide community as Pakistanis voiced fears it represented an attempt to weaken democracy ahead of the federal elections.

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Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, on May 4 said that general election would be held within 60 days after the formation of an interim government.

The attack on the minister, just months ahead of the 2018 general elections, needs to be probed, they said, adding that TLP is a peaceful religio-political party that believes in change through political struggle and democratic processes.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif described the incident as an "assassination attempt". The bullet reached his abdomen, according to local newspaper The Daily Times.

Hospital's administration stated that two surgeries were performed on Ahsan Iqbal's arm.

The elections are expected this summer, but observers say the ballot could be delayed.

Iqbal, who also heads the planning ministry, has in recent years overseen the implementation of Chinese-funded Belt and Road infrastructure projects in Pakistan as part of the near $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto and other Pakistan Peoples Party leaders also condemned the attack, as did Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan.