THE nation has narrowly avoided a grave tragedy thanks to sheer good luck and the quick thinking of one courageous bystander. When local media late yesterday afternoon broke the news of a reported gun attack on former prime minister Imran Khan’s ‘long march’, many would have recalled with cold dread Dec 27, 2007, when another popular leader was assassinated in a suicide attack. It is as much the nation’s good fortune as it is Mr Khan’s that the dastardly attempt on his life failed. He has, according to initial reports, sustained a bullet injury. Thankfully, being extraordinarily physically fit and active for his age, it appears that he will pull through just fine. We wish him and the others injured in this cowardly attack good health and a quick recovery. It is also saddening to note the reports of the loss of at least one innocent bystander’s life in the Thursday incident.
Once the shock of the incident wears off, those tasked with Mr Khan’s private security, as well as the Punjab police, must be asked to give stock of why they failed in their job to protect him. There have been multiple serious threats to Mr Khan’s life — many that the PTI and its chairman have publicly spoken about as well. It ought to have been understood by this point that his life would be in danger whenever he was out among the public. How, then, did such a potentially fatal lapse happen? Mr Khan appears to have been saved by mere inches: if the bullet that reportedly pierced his leg had landed even slightly higher, the consequences could very likely have been fatal. His protectors must realise the gravity of their failure. This is not to say that the federal government deserves no blame. Regardless of any public leader’s political inclinations, it is incumbent upon the government to watch for any risk to their lives and to go out of its way to ensure their safety. It clearly failed in this responsibility.
Mr Khan is a dynamic, fearless leader, but he should consider the danger he may be putting himself in. Bullet-proof glass and protective gear may look unseemly, but they are unfortunate necessities for public leaders of his stature in a country like Pakistan. He should also understand that his well-being and safety directly impact the well-being and safety of those around them. His supporters may be deeply loyal and willing to stay by his side through thick and thin, but it would be very unfair of him to expose them to any risks due to his unwillingness to take greater precautions. It is time for all parties to reach a consensus that the tragedy of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, and the chaos and destruction that followed, can never be allowed to be visited on this country again.
Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2022