Unknown gunmen on motorbikes have opened fire at a prominent Pakistani television anchor on a busy road in the southern port city of Karachi, officials say.
Hamid Mir, who hosts a popular talk show on Pakistan’s Geo News channel, was travelling to his office from the airport when his car came under attack, senior police official Peer Muhammad Shah said.
“Four gunmen riding on motorbikes started firing at the car near Karsaz (east of the city) when Mir’s car was passing through. He received three bullets in the lower parts of his body,” Shah said.
Karachi police chief Shahid Hayat confirmed the incident.
“Hamid Mir has received three bullets but the doctors told me that he is out of danger,” Hayat said.
Geo’s Islamabad bureau chief Rana Jawad said he had talked briefly to Mir on his mobile phone as he was under attack.
“I spoke to him briefly when he was escaping, he said they have shot him and now they were following him,” Jawad said.
“He has been shot thrice, in the pelvic (area), abdomen and thighs,” he added.
Mir has long been a critic of the country’s powerful intelligence agencies and military for their alleged role in the disappearance of thousands of people in the restive southwestern province of Baluchistan.
Amir Mir, brother of Hamid and also a journalist, accused the country’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency of responsibility for the attack, saying the wounded television anchor had felt threatened before the attack.
“He had told me that if anything happens to him, the ISI chief General Zaheer-ul-Islam would be responsible for it,” he said.
He blamed a “disgruntled faction of the army and ISI” for attempting to assassinate his brother.
“The ISI chief was not happy with him because he exposed their human rights abuses in Baluchistan, he said.
“The army and its powerful intelligence agency cannot bear criticism from journalists.”
He added the army disliked perceived attacks on the military’s role in politics.
Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have long been accused of harassing and threatening journalists.
Last year Hamid Mir survived an attack in Islamabad when a bomb planted under his car was defused before it could go off.
The journalist, who hosts a long-running talk show on Geo News, had also complained of receiving death threats from the country’s intelligence agency.
The army described the accusations as baseless in a statement via the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the armed forces, which said it “condemned the incident and demanded an independent enquiry”.
The statement added that “raising allegations against ISI or the head of ISI without any basis is highly regrettable and misleading”.
Last month Raza Rumi, a prominent television anchor known for his outspoken critical views of the Pakistani Taliban, survived a similar assassination attempt in Lahore.
Rumi’s driver died of the injuries he sustained.
Earlier in March, Pakistan announced it would set up a special commission to protect journalists and will include press freedom as part of peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.
Rights groups have called Pakistan one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.
According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, seven reporters lost their lives in Pakistan last year.