Islamabad, Pakistan – A day after a bullet wounded former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan while he was leading “a long march” to the capital, his party announced country-wide protests on Friday afternoon.
Khan, who is the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, sustained minor injuries when he was shot while atop a vehicle in Wazirabad city in Punjab province. He was immediately taken to Lahore for treatment, where doctors operated on him late on Thursday. He is in a stable condition.
Senior PTI leaders Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry tweeted the party’s intention to carry out nationwide demonstrations after Friday prayers. Khan will later give a press conference at about 4pm local time (11:00 GMT).
Speaking to Al Jazeera, PTI official Musarrat Jamshed Cheema said the senior leadership of the party will hold discussions before Friday prayers at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital, where Khan is receiving treatment.
“Imran Khan will himself lead the meeting in which we will discuss our future strategy and plan how to go about it,” Cheema said, adding party leaders will later announce their intentions to supporters.
Khan began his long march from Lahore to Islamabad on October 28 demanding early elections, which are otherwise scheduled for October 2023. Questions about whether the rolling protest would continue were raised after the attack on Thursday.
“It is our decision, in principle, that the march will not stop. It may change its shape and form, but we will continue our struggle for real freedom. We are not calling it off and just have to see how to move ahead,” Cheema said.
The shooting and continuing demonstrations have raised security concerns in Pakistan.
Cheema said Khan, 70, is feeling better after the surgery and was able to move around on Friday morning.
“The four-member medical board at the doctor will assess him again today, and then it will be decided whether he can be discharged today or should stay back for another day,” she said.
Hours after the attack on Thursday, PTI leaders released a video statement on behalf of Khan, accusing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, interior minister Rana Sanaullah and senior intelligence official Major-General Faisal Naseer of responsibility for the shooting.
“This is an extremely serious matter … We have tasked our legal team to look into the matter to file a watertight case to ensure it has no weaknesses,” said Cheema.
The federal government, in a press conference on Thursday, described the allegations as baseless and asked the provincial authorities of Punjab to form an investigative team to ascertain the facts.
Addressing the National Assembly, defence minister Khawaja Asif said if PTI believes there was a conspiracy behind the attack on Khan, it should immediately be uncovered.
Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, chief minister of Punjab, expressed doubt there might be more than one attacker. Police arrested a lone gunman, identified as Naveed Ahmed.
The shooting resulted in the death of one participant at the rally, Muazzam Nawaz, as well as injuries to 14 people, including Khan.
Khan’s government was removed through a no-confidence vote in parliament in April, after which he began holding rallies across the country.
The former leader has blamed a United States-led foreign conspiracy behind his removal in collusion with Pakistan’s military establishment and political rivals, without sharing any evidence.