Following the attempted assassination of Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan on November 3, Islamists and their fellow supporters in the West have blamed a range of possible actors, including Pakistan’s military, opposition party leaders, and Israeli or U.S. intelligence services.
In New York, Toronto, and the U.K., the overseas arms of Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party organized protests after a lone gunman opened fire onto a political rally during Khan’s long march to Islamabad to demand early elections.
Khan survived the attack with bullet wounds to his leg, and the shooter was apprehended. Soon after, a leaked police video of the gunman’s confession circulated on social media. Claiming he acted alone, the man stated he had become angry at Khan for disrupting the call to prayer and for allegedly supporting Israel.
Four days later, Khan claimed, during an interview with CNN, that the attack was planned. He blamed Pakistan’s current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, interior minister Rana Sanaullah, and intelligence officer Major General Faisal Naseer.
The accused parties all deny involvement with the attack, and Khan has not provided any hard evidence to support his allegations.
Some Islamists in the West have since worked to advance outrage and conspiracy.
In an hour-long analysis on the assassination attempt, an American Salafi preacher named Omar Baloch conspiratorially claims that the leaked confession appears to be scripted, and that supposed discrepancies such as the greeting the suspect used, his body language, and the lack of other people in the video somehow confirm this suspicion. Baloch instead also believes the recent assassination attempt on Khan was undertaken by the Pakistani establishment: the current government and military.
Baloch is a prominent extremist who openly calls for the imposition of sharia law, and has previously claimed that the death of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was in fact murder – the “first step” in an Israeli plot.
In addition, Baloch backs Khan’s claims that his ouster from office in May was the result of a U.S. conspiracy implemented as a result of Khan’s visit to Russia on the eve of its invasion of Ukraine, as well as Khan’s refusal to denounce Russia. As apparent evidence, Baloch cites biblical prophecies and argues: “Russia stands culturally … culturally in very big contrast to Western culture. And so, the fact that Imran Khan even went there upset them so much.”
Baloch added that other reasons the U.S. might have removed Khan from office included his role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, his efforts to unite Muslim voices through Malaysia and Turkey, and his denunciations of cartoons in Demark that ostensibly defamed Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Baloch declares that Imran Khan should be protected, despite his failure to implement truly Islamic government, and that: “He represents the hope of the people. … He has been able to at some level bring more prosperity, more Islam, even than all the ulema of the past … He brought more respect to Islam.”
CJ Werleman, an Australian journalist and a leading fellow traveler of Islamists in the West, believes that the military, or perhaps foreign actors, were seeking to block Khan from returning to power.
“If you think Imran Khan’s would-be assassin was a lone gunman that it’s likely you also believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he assassinated JFK and that Jack Ruby was also acting alone when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald,” he said in a YouTube video.
Werleman explicitly does not rule out involvement from either the CIA, Mossad, or both:
The timing, motives, and actions all points towards a Pakistani military, specifically … General Faisal and General Bajwa. But signs also point towards foreign actors, including the CIA, and or the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, an organization has perfected the art of political assassinations far beyond its borders.
As proof that the U.S. regarded Khan as a threat, Werleman notes the Trump administration’s cancellation of $300 million in aid to the Pakistan military while Khan was prime minister, and then notes the Biden administration’s approval of $450 million for F-16 aircraft for the Pakistani military immediately after Khan was voted out of office.
Richard Medhurst, a Syrian-British political activist involved with Iranian regime media, believes that the military targeted Khan because he had become too popular. As with Baloch and Werleman, Medhurst cites supposed issues with the leaked confession video and purported American anger over Khan;s stance on Russia as further evidence.
Besides Western Islamists and sympathetic supporters, overseas arms of Khan’s quasi-Islamist PTI party in Spain, the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia have also coordinated protests and backed Khan’s claims.
In Australia, local PTI activists have gained the support of Federal Senator David Shoebridge, who called for the Australian government to conduct an independent investigation into the assassination attempt. The PTI has also welcomed remarks from Lee Rhiannon, a former Australian senator, who decried U.S. policies against Pakistan, and reportedly “appreciated Imran Khan’s commitment to Rule of Law.”
Meanwhile, Sajjad Burki, a former president of PTI-USA who currently serves as Khan’s “focal person for the USA”, took to Twitter to denounce “the corrupt and imported government … trying to spin the murderous attack on Imran Khan.”
Burki himself stands at the center of a network of Pakistani Islamists and terror-connected organizations in Houston, which maintains close ties to the Pakistani regime.
Khan’s future in Pakistan, and thus perhaps the strength of his supporters in the West, is now in doubt. Pakistan’s General Bajwa, whom some say Imran Khan was counting on to force early elections in the country, has now retired; and a former head of Inter-Services Intelligence, Asim Munir, whom Imran Khan had fired, has taken Bajwa’s place as head of Pakistan’s military.
Khan has now claimed that Bajwa was playing a “double game” with his government. Such rhetoric has found support among his supporters in the West, with a board member of the Islamist-aligned Pakistani-American Political Action Committee (PAKPAC), Jalil Khan, declaring Bajwa a “traitor” and “bastrad [sic].”
Regardless of the gunman’s true motivation, or who clings to power in Pakistan, the truth is that both Khan and the military use religion to control power in the country. For Islamists in the West, the volatile political landscape of Pakistan will continue to serve as an important source of support and conspiracy.