Pakistan's interior minister shot and wounded after public meeting

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PAKISTAN'S Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was on Sunday shot at and injured in a suspected assassination bid after he addressed a rally in Punjab province, police said.

Iqbal, 59, was hit in the shoulder as he was leaving a political gathering in his hometown of Narowal, in Pakistan's state of Punjab.

The shooter carried out the attack over a minor amendment to the oath that election candidates must swear, which was quickly reversed past year after it was linked to blasphemy, local deputy commissioner Ali Anan Qamar said.

Iqbal took charge of the interior ministry a year ago and has been in the cabinet since Abbasi's Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N) came to power in 2013.

When the minister arrived at the hospital in Lahore, Shehbaz Sharif, Chief Secretary Zahid Saeed, IGP Arif Nawaz, and others were present.

The suspect reportedly confessed to the crime, saying he had bought the weapon used in the incident from a local person.

Reuters cited a police report that said Hussain was affiliated with an Islamist political party called Tehrik-e Labaik, which focuses on fighting what its members deem to be blasphemy against Islam. "We know the motive of this attack but this is a very risky game being played against the PML-N", Information Minister Marrium Aurengzeb said.

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Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif described the attack as an assassination attempt.

Hussain, who was overpowered and disarmed by security guards before he could fire another shot, was later handed over to police. The suspect then claimed that he committed the act because he was upset with the PML-N government over the change to the offending clause in the Constitution.

The attack comes at a time when the ruling party PML-N faces several challenges after the courts disqualified Nawaz Sharif and former Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif from holding any public office for life; the country's top accountability watchdog has also launched investigations in corruption cases against several other ruling party leaders.

Popular opposition leader Imran Khan and his PTI party demanded a probe into the attack.

Blasphemy is a deeply emotional and politically charged issue in the country.

Senator Sitara Ayaz strongly condemned assassination attempt on Interior Minister and said that National Action Plan should be implemented in true letter and spirit. Iqbal is "out of danger" and the attacker has been arrested.

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