Sunday 20 October 2019

Fall takes Khan off election trail

The injured Imran Khan is taken to hospital after the fall (AP)
The injured Imran Khan is taken to hospital after the fall (AP)

Pakistani cricketer turned politician Imran Khan is likely to miss the final national election campaign days after his dramatic fall at a political rally.

Mr Khan fractured three vertebrae and a rib when he fell about 15 ft off a fork lift truck that was raising him and three guards to a rally stage in the eastern city of Lahore.

Dr Faisal Sultan said he will be kept on bed rest in the hospital for at least a few more days so doctors can conduct further examinations. He said he suffered three fractured vertebrae but denied earlier reports that Mr Khan also suffered skull fractures.

The elections are on May 11. His party - Tehreek-e-Insaf - is a leading challenger. It's possible that Mr Khan could benefit from the accident if Pakistanis choose to vote for him out of sympathy.

Hours after the fall, the charismatic politician gave an interview 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 said. "Now you have to decide whether you want to make a new Pakistan."

The fall put a damper on what has been one of Pakistan's most dynamic election campaigns. Mr 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 into a political system long dominated by dynasties.

He entered politics in the late 1990s but it was not until 2011 that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf gained a widespread national following. Now it is considered one of the three main challengers in the upcoming election.

Many analysts consider former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party to be the front runner in the election, but Mr Khan has emerged as a wildcard. His party has dented the two-party system long dominated by the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the outgoing Pakistan People's Party and could steal votes from both.

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. A suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives outside a police station in the city of Bannu in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing a policeman and two women. A bomb hidden in a vegetable cart exploded in a market in another north west city, Hangu, wounding 14 people, police officer Azmat Khan said.

PA Media

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