Pakistan forms team to probe assassination attempt at minister

Ahsan Iqbal "out of danger" after being shot in the shoulder at political gathering in Narowal district, officials say.

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.

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, widely expected to be held late this summer.

Punjab Assembly lawmaker Rana Manan said Iqbal was about to sit in his vehicle when the attacker fired at him.

Abid Hussain appeared before the anti-terror court in Gujranwala city in Punjab province, where he was remanded into custody for ten days, police official Chaudhry Tariq told AFP.

Former Senate chief Mian Raza Rabbani strongly condemning the assassination attempt on Interior Minister said Ahsan Iqbal had played key role in preparing Charter of Democracy, inked between Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). "PML-N will not be browbeaten into submission".

Pakistan's Interior Minister Ashan Iqbal was shot and wounded on Sunday by a gunman reportedly linked to a hard-line Muslim group. He is also the minister for planning, development and reforms.

Police are investigating whether the attack could have had any religious motive. The suspected assassination attempt is seen as a bad omen ahead of forthcoming elections.

Nawaz Sharif's own political speeches show that he believes his party is being squeezed from all sides to prevent it from winning the next elections or, at least, from securing a heavy mandate. Despite the setbacks, the party has won a string of recent by-elections, proving it will likely remain a force in the vote. "I had attended the Faizabad, Islamabad sit-in staged by religious outfit - Tehreek-e-Labbaik Yarasoolallah Pakistan (TLYP) - in November a year ago and chose to kill blasphemers", Hussain said.

That demonstration ended when the government capitulated to the protesters' demands-including the ousting of the federal law minister-in a deal brokered by the military. The apparent grossness and illegality of the agreement made the Supreme Court to take a suo moto notice on the issue.

  • Rogelio Becker