Bid to kill Pakistani minister religiously motivated – Police

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Islamabad (dpa) – The gunman accused of shooting and wounding the Pakistani interior minister was linked to a hardline religious movement that supports the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, officials said.

The gunman who shot at Ahsan Iqbal, 59, in eastern city of Narowal on Sunday told investigators that he was affiliated with the movement, called Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA).

Iqbal underwent two operations and was in a stable condition at a hospital in Lahore, said Malik Ahmad, a spokesman for the Punjab government.

The ultra-religious party forced Pakistan’s justice minister to resign last year after accusing him of blasphemy. He had changed an electoral law in a way that they perceived as softening the official stance towards the Ahmadiya religious minority.

Blasphemy in Pakistani law can mean the death penalty for those seen as insulting Islam or the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

The main suspect is resident of a nearby village and “showed affiliation with the Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah,” Narowal deputy commissioner Ali Anan Qamar said in a preliminary report.

“He confessed to opening fire at the minister due to the blasphemy issue,” district police chief Imran Kishwar said.

“He might be one of our followers but we have nothing to do with the incident since we did not ask people to take up arms,” TLYRA spokesman Pir Ijaz Ashrafi told dpa.