Page last updated at 07:50 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Pakistan politician escapes life attempt

Sheikh Rashid Ahmad
Mr Ahmed is contesting an election in Rawalpindi

A senior Pakistani politician has survived an attempt on his life when unidentified gunmen shot at him in the city of Rawalpindi in Punjab province.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, leader of the Awami Muslim League (AML) party, escaped with a sprained ankle, officials said.

Mr Ahmed was coming out of an election meeting when four gunmen on motorcycles shot at him.

Three of his security guards were killed in the attack, police said.

No arrests have been made in the connection with the incident.

The attack has disrupted Mr Ahmed's campaign for a key by-election which many believe will test the popularity of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) party run by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif - which rules Punjab province.

Mr Sharif's faction won the largest number of seats in the province in the 2008 elections.

But it had asked for the postponement of the by-election in view of the "fragile" law and order situation in Punjab.

However, Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled in favour of an argument put forward by Mr Ahmed to hold the election.

Mr Ahmed is the head of the Awami Muslim League (AML) party and is contesting the Rawalpindi constituency.

The AML is one of several parties, such as the PML-N, formed from different factions of the now defunct PML party.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says this is the fifth attack of its kind in the Rawalpindi-Islamabad area, involving gunmen on motorcycles.

Three army officers were killed in separate gun attacks lat year. Pakistan's minister of religious affairs survived an assassination attempt.

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