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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 396, 12 November 2022

One week after Imran Khan’s assassination: Four major questions

What the delay in the filing of the FIR means for Imran Khan and his freedom call

Bhoomika Sesharaj




1. Who was the assassin? Why did he target Imran Khan?
On 3 November, Imran Khan was shot at and injured, in what comes across as an assassination attempt. The suspect was standing in front of the container that carried Imran Khan and the senior party leaders, and “showered” an array of bullets with an automatic pistol during the PTI's ‘Haqeeqi Azadi’ march in Wazirabad, Punjab. Imran Khan endured multiple bullet injuries on his leg but was reported to be stable after being shifted to a hospital in Lahore. After his operation, he mentioned that he was “fine” and said that he would continue with the long march and reach Islamabad.
Witnesses maintained that the suspected assailant “fired an entire round of the bullet magazine” but was stopped by a PTI supporter before the suspect could load a second round. The suspect was detained soon after the shots were fired. The attack is claimed to be “targeted” and “well-planned” by other PTI leaders and supporters, with extensive condemnation from across the country. The suspect, in a video statement apparently leaked by the police, claimed that he had “only” planned to kill Imran Khan as soon as the long march commenced from Lahore. The suspect said that Imran Khan was “misguiding people” and that he planned the conspiracy by himself. Imran Khan, however, claimed that it could be two people who shot at him but has no incriminating evidence proving the same. Further, he said: “The day before Wazirabad, they made the plan to kill me as they saw the number of people increasingly using the script of religious extremism”.
Regional police identified the suspect as Mohammad Naveed and launched a criminal investigation after the registration of a formal case. Interior Minister Rana Sanaulla maintained that the suspect was “self-motivated” and said that the suspect was “fully committed” from the information they derived from his cell phone. He said that Naveed’s statements were “concerning and dangerous”.  Journalists visiting the scene found out that the suspect “lived in a dingy house” with a widowed mother, wife and two sons. Naveed had returned from Saudi Arabia earlier this year, where his involvement in the attack “came as a surprise” to the authorities, who added that he showed “some signs of religiosity” since his return to Pakistan. Imran Khan said that the case was “farcical”.

2. What was Imran Khan’s response? What did others say?

Imran Khan in a series of interviews with CNN, TRT, and Piers Morgan, said the following about his assassination attempt:

  • Asked about how he knew about the assassination: “Remember, three and a half years I was in power. I have connections with intelligence agencies, the different agencies that operate. How did I get the information? From within the intelligence agencies…” Why? Because most people are appalled by what is going on in this country…” “
  • “…As the events unfolded, they are in that speech. How this would happen, how in the name of blasphemy a religious fanatic would kill me and they would blame it on him. All this is in my speech which I put on television – it’s on social media…”
  • “...They tried everything to somehow get me out of the way. When that didn’t happen, this was planned…”
  • With the Turkish TV Channel, TRT, he said: “…Psychologically, I’m more determined than ever. I was expecting something to happen. I predicted this four months ago that there was a plot against me…”

Following the attack, leaders including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the attack and asked the interior minister for a report on the matter. Protests commenced immediately after the assassination attempt, with PTI leaders and supporters taking to the streets in cities across the country to condemn and criticise the incident. PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhary alleged that the attack was a “planned assassination attempt” and that Imran Khan had escaped narrowly. He said that the attack was planned to kill the “leadership” of the PTI. PTI President Yasmin Rashid also spoke of the attack and stated that “Imran Khan is our red line” and the government has “crossed” it.

3. What was the FIR controversy?

The filing of the FIR was delayed due to differences between Imran Khan and the provincial government, as Imran Khan wanted to nominate PM Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Major General Faisal Naseer in the complaint. The Punjab government and its police were “reluctant” to include these names, as it would have the serving army general in the complaint. The delay in the FIR registration also underlines the turbulence Imran Khan faces with Chief Minister Parvez Elahi, as he tried to “convince” Imran Khan to reconsider his complaint. Imran Khan complained that the Punjab police were “refusing” to register his complaint, while the Inspector General (IG)of the police said that the PTI’s allies were “creating hurdles”. The stalemate in the registration of the FIR comes as Imran Khan refuses to withdraw the names of senior officers, the prime minister, and the interior minister from his complaint. The PTI chairman said that the delay in the registration of the FIR is questionable and that the senior officials were “hatching a conspiracy to kill him”. He expressed the “adamant” nature of the police to refuse to register the complaint and raised concerns over the credibility of the justice system.
However, On November 6, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif wrote to the country’s top judge to form judicial commissions to investigate the attack and highlighted the delay in the filing of the FIR, where he wrote letters to the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), saying that these “unfortunate” incidents aggravate the institutions of the country and that the truth should “be determined”.
On 8 November, the provincial police of Punjab registered the attack on Imran Khan under terrorism charges, with the detained suspect being nominated as the prime accused assailant. The FIR was lodged after experiencing a delay of nearly four days. The FIR did not mention the names of any senior officials, including PM Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and a senior military officer in the complaint, that Imran Khan nominated to be in the complaint. After the filing of the complaint, on 10 November, the long march was resumed by PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi and thousands of others from Wazirabad, a week after the attack. Imran Khan said that he would reach Rawalpindi and “invite” everyone to join the gathering, in a video address to the people of the country.

4. What did the Supreme Court say?

On 7 November, the Supreme Court instructed the Punjab police chief to register a first information report (FIR) on the incident within 24 hours. The FIR saw a delay also due to Imran Khan’s prior infringing on the SC’s order on 25 May, which had defined the limits for PTI’s Long March gathering at the time. A bench, headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), sought an investigation into the delay of the filing of the FIR, with the CJP warning of taking a suo moto notice if the FIR was not registered. The CJP questioned the Punjab police, asking for a “concrete reason” for the delay.
Further, he added that nearly four days had passed since the attack and that the lack of an FIR would limit the investigation of the attack. The CJP remarked that the police need to be accountable and that the criminal justice system and “delivery of justice” should be their topmost priority. He expressed his criticism sternly, saying that the SC would be with the police if they work according to the law. He said, “there was an attempt to kill a national leader. Investigate, collect evidence and get a forensic conducted”.
(Mansoor Malik, “Attempt on Imran Khan’s life shocks nation,” Dawn, 4 November 2022)
(Haseeb Bhatti, “SC warns of suo motu notice if FIR of attack on Imran not registered in 24 hours,” Dawn, 7 November 2022)
(Nasir Iqbal, “Police finally register FIR over attack on PTI chief following SC intervention,”  Dawn, 8 November 2022)
(“Imran says deep state in Pakistan controlled everything,” The Express Tribune, 8 November 2022)
Interviews: CNN: (“Chairman PTI Imran Khan Exclusive Interview on CNN with Becky Anderson,” Youtube, 7 November 2022)
TRT: (“Chairman PTI Imran Khan's Exclusive Interview on TRT World with Andrea Sanke,” Youtube, 7 November 2022)

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