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Pakistani interior minister shot by man linked to new religious party

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A man accused of shooting Pakistan's interior minister in a suspected assassination attempt possibly linked to blasphemy appeared in court Monday, with the attack seen as an ominous sign for security ahead of nationwide elections.

State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhery told Anadolu Agency: "An unknown assailant has attacked the interior minister during a political gathering in Kanjrur area of Narowal district, his native town, and got injured". Confirming the incident, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Tallal Chaudhry said Iqbal was out of danger.

After initial medical assistance at Narowal District Headquarters Hospital, the minister was airlifted to Lahore where doctors at Services Hospital removed the bullet and stated his condition to be stable. The Punjab government said the suspect was identified as a local 20 to 22-year-old from the Shah Gharib precinct.

His remarks came in apparent reference to the distribution of Rs 1000 by Pakistan army to activists of Tehreek-e-Labaik - a new ultra-religious political party - each when they were released following an agreement reached between the federal government and Tehreek-e-Labaik which eventually ended a 21-day long sit-in at Faizabad over the issue of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat. "We are interrogating him to find out whether he acted alone or at the behest of someone", he said.

The chief minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, condemned the attack and said Iqbal was "in high spirits".

The interior minister was immediately shifted to a nearby hospital; he was later shifted to Lahore, the provincial capital city of Punjab province.

The party is calling for the aggressive enforcement of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

While condemning the attack on Interior Minister, Pakistan's civil and military leadership prayed for his early recovery.

Late previous year, some changes were made to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat declaration required of prospective lawmakers under new laws drafted by the ruling PML-N in consultation with opposition parties.

The party, now being headed by Shehbaz, has been struggling to find its footing since Nawaz was ousted by the Supreme Court over graft allegations last summer.

He said the bullet had also penetrated the right elbow joint of the minister.

Similarly, Senator Ghous Muhammad Khan Niazi also condemned the attack on Ahsan Iqbal and asked the workers of all political parties to play their role in uniting the nation.