KARACHI, Pakistan – Pakistan's Interior Minister barely escaped attempt on Sunday night when a gunman entered a small group of supporters and colleagues surrounding the minister, firing a shot that pierced his right shoulder.
The assailant quickly arrested and the minister, Ahsan Iqbal, taken to the hospital; Government officials said he was in a stable condition. The shooting, which took place in Punjab province, caused the Pakistanis to go at full speed as the country prepared to hold parliamentary elections in July.
Although one motive for the shootings is still outstanding, Iqbal is a staunch supporter of Pakistan's religious minorities, often considered heretics by the radical runners of Sunni Islam. Mr. Iqbal met with religious minorities throughout Pakistan in recent weeks, encouraged them to vote, and promised to provide security to the nervous guards.
Mr. Iqbal was shot dead as he left a meeting and reportedly shook hands with a small crowd before getting in his car to leave. The minister may have met a group of Christians in his Narowal constituency, according to a Reuters report, according to . Narowal is about 150 miles southeast of Islamabad, the capital.
The minister is one of the highest officials in the government and a member of the ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Chief Minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, said on Twitter that he "personally supervises the investigation into the assassination attempt."
Video posted hours after the attack by Punjabs provincial government showed that Mr Iqbal was being lifted from an ambulance to a stretcher, his right arm in a noose, his eyes alert.
Mr. Iqbal was often a single voice defending the Pakistani minorities and protecting them from attacks by members of his own party. When a high-ranking official of the ruling party in a speech in October 1945 described the Ahmadis – an Islamic sect – as a threat to the country, which was to be excluded from the military, Iqbal demanded an "inclusive Pakistan":  Mr. Iqbal never shied away from a photo opportunity with its Christian constituents, targets of communal violence and devastating attacks such as the suicide bombing that broke through a children's park in Lahore on Easter Sunday in 2016, killing at least 69 people.
The following year, Mr. Iqbal, a prolific Twitter user, tagged Christmas with his Christian constituents by writing a photograph of him and a throng of young kids in red, a boy with a Santa Claus hat and beard.
The photo aroused both praise and contempt, which Mr. Iqbal ignored and continued 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 .