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Man who shot Pakistan interior minister linked to ‘blasphemy-fighting’ religious group

A police report said the shooter was Abid Hussain, 21, who is affiliated with the Tehreek-e-Labaik party, which which focuses on highlighting and fighting blasphemy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 May, 2018, 11:06pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 May, 2018, 1:25pm

The man believed to have shot Pakistani Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Sunday was affiliated to the new ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labaik party, according to a police report seen by Reuters. 

The report said the shooter was Abid Hussain, 21, who “showed his affiliation” to the party, which focuses on highlighting and fighting blasphemy. It did not speculate on his motive. 

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Labaik’s leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, condemned the attack in a statement and said his party had not authorised any of its workers to take up arms.

Iqbal was been shot at a public meeting in Punjab province but will survive, his aide said earlier on Sunday. 

“Ahsan Iqbal was targeted and shot in the arm,” Asim Khan, a special aide to the politician, told Agence France-Presse. “He is out of danger and being taken to a medical facility in Lahore. The attacker has been arrested.”

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He said no more details were available. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has condemned the attack, which comes as the country gears up for federal elections expected this summer.

Malik Ahmed Khan, a spokesman for the Punjab government, said Iqbal had been attending the meeting in his constituency in Narowal district when he was shot in the right arm.

“The attacker was about to fire a second shot when police and people in the meeting overpowered him,” Khan said, adding that Iqbal was undergoing surgery and confirming his life was not in danger.

The suspected attack on Iqbal comes as the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is struggling to regain its footing ahead of the coming general elections after a series of blows to its top leaders.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was deposed by the Supreme Court last year over graft allegations and has been banned from politics for life, while foreign minister Khawaja Asif was also removed by the court late last month for violating election laws.