LAHORE - More arrests have been made in connection with the botched assassination attempt on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal as investigators widen scope of the high-profile probe.
Ahsan is recovering fast at the Intensive Care Unit of the Services Hospital in Lahore. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday visited the hospital to inquire about the health of the Minister, who is also very close to the PML-N leadership.
Sharif remained at the ICU for a short time and asked the doctors to ensure best treatment for the Minister.
Several local leaders of Tehrik-e-Labbaik are among those arrested during the back-to-back police raids in Narowal district.
Ameer TLYR Narowal district Shahid Rafique Madni and a local prayer leader Hafiz Jamshaid were also arrested from different areas and shifted to a police facility for interrogation. A senior official on Tuesday told The Nation that more than 20 people were arrested during “police raids” and they were sent to a highly-guarded facility for investigation.
He said most of the arrests were made after the investigators examined phone call records, including WhatsApp messages, of the main suspect Abid Hussain.
The main suspect Abid also joined the violent protests over the issue of changes to election laws.
During the Faizabad sit-in the main suspect had decided that he would send any blasphemer to hell, the interrogation report revealed.
Tehrik-e-Labbaik denies any links with the suspect.
But Abid told police investigators that he was an active member of the recently-launched sectarian outfit. The 22-year-old assassin used to attend religious events held under the aegis of TLYR.
The “interrogation report” confirms the suspect was President of the Youth Wing of the TLYR, Union Council Kot Baray Khan. The suspect was also in touch with some clerics who had participated in the Faizabad sit-in protests.
The Tehrik-e-Labbaik blocked the main interchange into the Federal capital for several days over the amendments to the election laws.
The Federal Ministers clarified the change as a clerical mistake and reversed it immediately. A Federal Minister also resigned to cool down the protesters.
At least seven people died and more than 180 others were wounded during clashes as police attempted to clear the road. The Tehrik-e-Labbaik leaders were of the view that Ahsan Iqbal being the Interior Minister was responsible for the attack on protesters because he had ordered the police to take action.
Abid told the police he was “in search of” the Minister since he had met the local leader of the TLYR. The attacker also made several phone calls to the organisers to confirm the participation of the Minister in the event where Ahsan was attacked.
Some organisers of the event are also in police custody and they are being interrogated in connection with the gun-attack. A source close to police investigators said that the attack was planned several weeks before.
The suspect and his accomplices “arranged” pistol and bullets a few months ago. “They had the idea that the Minister will surely visit his constituency before the elections,” the source said.
The attacker while taking advantage of lack of security managed to enter the venue where some two dozen people, mostly Christians, were present.
He waited for the Minister to come out. Abid opened firing on the Minister as he appeared before him.
A high-powered joint investigation comprising police investigators and intelligence operatives is investigating the gun attack. The JIT members on Tuesday held a meeting in Lahore and discussed various aspects of the incidents. Further investigation was underway.