Reports suggesting the hitman being a lone wolf with a political motive appeared too flimsy and motivated to have any credibility
An assassination attempt on a cricket hero-turned-politician is the equivalent of lighting a match near the tinderbox that is Pakistan. At a time of acute acrimony in the wake of Imran Khan being dislodged as Prime Minister last April by a potpourri of opposing forces, including political foes of the Sharif-Bhutto clans, an instance of targeted political violence at a public rally is certain to add to the chaos.
Imran, already seen as heroic in victimhood arising from the overbearing presence of the military in Pakistan politics, is bound to gain more as protests, which began with the intention of forcing early polls, intensify across the country. Opportunist politicians who may have seized upon Imran falling out with the Army, though their favourite he avowedly was during his ascent to the PM’s chair, are bound to feel the pressure now.
Conspiracy theories will abound around the event in Wazirabad in the Pakistan Punjab ruled by Imran Khan’s PTI, in which at least one gunman of a possible two was able to open fire with a 9 mm automatic pistol in the general direction of the leader speaking on a stage on top of a container. Reports suggesting the hitman being a lone wolf with a political motive appeared too flimsy and motivated to have any credibility.
Imran may have to take a share of the blame for his downfall for his dabbling in Army politics in a country in which the brass also run the spy agency ISI. In trying to influence the Army succession and taking on the ISI chief, he may have provoked his ouster. A pliant election commission also got into the act in banning him from contesting elections.
It is to be seen if Imran, on recovering from this hit in the shins, injuries to which had once affected his cricket career too, can bring order to the general disarray of Pakistan, organise himself and his party into an orderly fight for his democratic right and ride the wave of considerable public support back to the centre of power. There may be a Damocles sword with a military grip eternally hanging on the throne, but then such are the hazards of civilian power in Pakistan.