Lahore - One of Pakistan's most prominent politicians,
former cricket star Imran Khan, fell at a political rally on Tuesday, leaving
him with two hairline skull fractures and knocking him off the campaign trail
ahead of Saturday's general election.
Khan has emerged as a wildcard candidate and it is unclear how much his
widespread personal popularity will translate into votes at the polls. His
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, however, is considered one of the top three parties
in the country.
Khan was treated at the hospital he himself built in honour of his late mother
in the eastern city of Lahore. Doctors told local television that Kahn suffered
two minor fractures to the skull and had a backache, but none of his injuries
Just hours after the fall, the charismatic politician spoke to reporters from
his hospital bed. He was visibly shaken and had a cut on his forehead, but he
was still asking people to vote for his party.
"I have done whatever I could do," he told national broadcaster Dunya
TV. "Now you have to decide whether you want to make a new Pakistan."
Asad Omar, leader of Khan's party, told Pakistan's Geo News that party leaders
would meet Wednesday to discuss how to continue his campaign during the next
He said Khan will spend the night at the hospital, and that doctors are asking
him to rest for 15 days. But the former cricket star, Omar said, is in good
physical condition and wants to resume his political activities as soon as
Outside the hospital, hundreds gathered awaiting word of his condition.
Dramatic television footage of the fall showed Khan standing on a stack of
crates piled onto a forklift accompanied by at least three guards or
supporters. As the forklift began to raise him up to the stage, the cricket
star and three of the men standing next to him fall back over a railing.
Khan fell at least 5m, but it was not clear on what type of surface he landed.
Local TV footage showed supporters carrying him away from the rally, apparently
unconscious and with a bloodied face.
Family and close aides also were at the hospital to check on his condition.
"Imran Khan wants his supporters to remain peaceful and united, and he
says he will soon be among them," his sister, Rani
Hafiz Khan, told the Pakistani ARY news channel by telephone.
The fall put a damper on what has been one of Pakistan's most dynamic election
campaigns. Khan earned legendary status in the country when he led the underdog
national team to a 1992 cricket World Cup victory, and had injected new energy
a political system long dominated by dynasties.
He entered politics in the late 1990s but it wasn't until just a few years ago
that his PTI party gained a widespread national following.
Much of Khan's support has come from young, middle-class Pakistanis in the
country's major cities, a potentially influential group. Almost half of
Pakistan's more than 80 million registered voters are under the age of 35.
According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Centre, 60 percent of
respondents viewed Khan favourably. However that figure dropped slightly from a
year ago, and now Khan is slightly outranked by former Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif, who leads
the rival Pakistan Muslim League-N.
The 60-year-old Khan had been setting a furious pace of rallies and election
events across the country to drum up support for his campaign. Few expect him
to be the next prime minster, but his party could play a role as a kingmaker or
form a solid opposition in parliament.
Interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso expressed concern over Khan's
injury and wished him a quick recovery. Sharif, whose party is competing heavily
with Khan's, announced he was suspending his campaign for the day out of
respect for his opponent.
Political events in Pakistan can be a chaotic affair. Often crowds press up
against areas where the candidates are speaking, and safety regulations are not
always strictly followed.
The election will mark a historic transfer of power from one democratically
elected government fulfilling its full term to another, something that has
never happened in Pakistan's coup-chequered history.
But the vote has been marred by near-daily violence by militants targeting
candidates and their election offices.
Three bombings in northwest Pakistan targeting individuals involved in the
election killed 18 people on Tuesday, police said, pushing the death toll from
attacks on candidates and party workers to more than 100 since the beginning of
April. Most of the violence has focused on three parties that have supported
military operations against Taliban militants in the tribal areas bordering
Khan believes the Pakistani army should pull out of the tribal regions and
resolve the conflict through negotiations. He's also been an outspoken opponent
of the US drone program targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants in northwest