Pakistan Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal. Photograph:( ANI )
The man believed to have shot Pakistan’s 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.
Labaik’s leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, condemned the attack in a statement and said his party had not authorized any of its workers to take up arms.
Blasphemy is a deeply emotional and politically charged issue in Pakistan. Critics of the blasphemy laws say they are used to unfairly target minorities — Muslims and non-muslims alike — and persecute minority faiths, thereby protecting the Islamic authority. Numerous prominent figures have been assassinated for opposing the country’s blasphemy laws.
Violence has been a feature of pre-election periods in Pakistan over the past decade, mainly due to Islamist assassinations of political figures, including former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
Iqbal, 59, a senior member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party and a staunch ally of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, was shot as he was leaving a constituency meeting surrounded by supporters in Punjab province.
(With inputs from Reuters)