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Pakistan Interior Minister, Champion of Minorities, Is Shot

The minister is one of the most senior officials in the government and a member of the ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The chief minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, said on Twitter that he was “personally overseeing” the investigation into the assassination attempt.

Video released hours after the attack by Punjab’s provincial government showed Mr. Iqbal being lifted out of an ambulance on a stretcher, his right arm in a sling, his eyes alert.

After initial treatment at DHQ Narowal, Ahsan Iqbal has been moved to Lahore. Chief Minister Punjab @CMShehbaz receives him. Ahsan Iqbal sahib looks stable Alhumdulillah. pic.twitter.com/tBYPZ1UBNA

— Govt Of The Punjab (@GovtOfPunjab) May 6, 2018

Mr. Iqbal has often been a lone voice defending Pakistan’s minorities, shielding them from attacks from members of even his own party. When a senior official from the ruling party in an October speech denounced the Ahmadis — an Islamic sect — as a threat to the country who should be barred from the military, Mr. Iqbal called for an “inclusive Pakistan”:

It is tragic to see hate speech against minorities in National Assembly. We believe in inclusive Pakistan. Pakistan respects all minorities.

— Ahsan Iqbal (@betterpakistan) Oct. 11, 2017

Pakistan Interior Minister, Champion of Minorities, Is Shot
Pakistan Interior Minister, Champion of Minorities, Is Shot

Mr. Iqbal never shied away from a photo opportunity with his Christian constituents, targets of communal violence and devastating attacks like the suicide bomb that ripped through a children’s park in Lahore on Easter Sunday in 2016, killing at least 69.

The next year, Mr. Iqbal, a prolific Twitter user, marked Christmas with his Christian constituents by posting a photo of him and a gaggle of young children in red, one boy wearing a Santa Claus hat and beard.

Celebrating Christmas in Isanagri, Narowal with Christian community. pic.twitter.com/7shzIdmHzG

— Ahsan Iqbal (@betterpakistan) Dec. 23, 2017

The photo elicited both praise and scorn, which Mr. Iqbal ignored, continuing to tweet in defense of the groups.

Meher Ahmad reported from Karachi, and Maria Abi-Habib from New Delhi.

Follow Maria Abi-Habib on Twitter: @abihabib.

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