ISLAMABAD -  Senior journalist Ahmed Noorani was attacked by unidentified assailants on the main thoroughfare near Zero Point in Islamabad on Friday morning.

The attack on the journalist affiliated with an English daily evoked a chorus of condemnation from politicians and government functionaries.

Noorani along with his driver was heading to his home in Sector G-6/2 when six unidentified men intercepted his vehicle near the Urdu University and attacked him with knives and chains, leaving the journalist grievously wounded, police said, adding his driver also sustained injuries.

The attackers aged 22-23 were riding two motorcycles without number plates, according to the FIR registered at the Aabpara Police Station.

They pulled Noorani out of his vehicle and beat him up. The driver was also subjected to torture, the police said.

The attackers assaulted Noorani in the broad daylight with knives with an aim to kill him, his driver Mumtaz told the police. They also abused both of them before fleeing the scene.

Noorani, who received multiple head injuries, was initially taken to Polyclinic hospital and then shifted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), where his condition was stated to be out of danger.

According to sources in the PIMS, the knife injury on the back of Noorani’s head was quite serious. “It is deep and still bleeding… His condition is out of danger but he is under observation,” the hospital sources said.

The police have registered a case on the complaint of driver Mumtaz under sections 324, 341, 148, 149 of the PPC.

According to the police, they have launched an investigation into the incident and have recorded statements of the witnesses.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited PIMS to inquire after Noorani. Talking to the media, Bilawal condemned the attack and vowed to stand for the freedom of press. He demanded the government investigate the incident transparently. According to the party’s official Twitter account, Bilawal said that attacks on journalists were unacceptable and the PPP has always fought for the freedom of press.

The PPP leader lamented that though the PPP was not in power, he wanted to shed light on the issue of violence against journalists. “There should also be an insurance policy for the journalist,” Bilawal said, adding that “there is still more to be done on the issue”.

Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry ordered the police to secure record of the Safe City Project cameras and bring the attackers to book.

He also visited PIMS and inquired about the health of the journalist. Talking to the media, he said that the matter would be investigated to reach the truth. He was of the view that police and intelligence agencies would participate in the investigation.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique also visited PIMS to inquire after Noorani. Talking to the media outside the hospital, he condemned the attack and said that attackers would not succeed in their nefarious designs.

He said that the authorities should look into the fact if Noorani was attacked for his writings and views. He also underlined the need to investigate if a third force was involved in the attack.

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb also condemned the attack and termed it an assault on the freedom of expression.

Different journalist groups including the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists urged the government to arrest the attackers and ensure safety of journalists.

Journalists gathered in front of the National Press Club in Islamabad to protest the attack on Noorani. Journalist organisations termed the attack a test case for Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal for a fair investigation.