Imran 'down but not out' after fractured spine

Leading Pakistani politician Imran Khan is recuperating in hospital after falling off a makeshift lift that was taking him onto a stage at an election rally in Lahore.

Doctors said Wednesday they expect Pakistani politician Imran Khan to make a full recovery despite fracturing his spine after the fall, as his party sought to capitalise on a sympathy vote.

The retired cricket star and head of the Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI) suffered several fractured vertebrae and a broken rib on Tuesday when he fell from a lift raising him onto the stage at a rally in the city of Lahore.

Medical staff have ordered the 60-year-old to remain immobile in bed, throwing into doubt the prospect that he will address in person a final rally set to wrap up his high-octane campaign for office in Saturday's election.

The man tipped to win the polls, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, suspended campaigning on Wednesday in tribute to Khan.

His fall was the latest dramatic twist to an election campaign that has been overshadowed by a series of attacks on politicians and political parties which have killed 113 people since mid-April, according to an AFP tally.

The Pakistani Taliban have condemned the polls as un-Islamic and directly threatened the outgoing secular Pakistan People's Party and its main coalition partners, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party.

On Wednesday a bomb targeted a candidate from the Awami National Party (ANP), killing two people and wounding three others in the northwestern tribal district of Bajaur, a local official said.

In Peshawar, a would-be suicide bomber blew himself up after he was holed up in a house during a police operation, city police chief Liaqat Ali Khan said. Two policemen were killed in an exchange of fire.

The man had been aiming to target election rallies in the city, the police chief said.

In another attack, unconnected to the elections, a suicide bomber killed three people and wounded 23 outside a police station in the northwestern district of Bannu, police said.

In Karachi, a bomb blast injured 18 people, police and hospital officials said. Senior police official Sarfaraz Nawaz said the bomb, planted in a car, "looks like an attempt to create a scare among the people ahead of the election".

Aides said Khan would still address a final election rally on Thursday, even if it has to be from hospital.

Television footage showed him flat on his back wearing a neck brace, and looking pale and groggy after his fall.

Doctors have advised at least two days' rest but say he is in full control of his limbs and bodily functions and is expected to make a full recovery.

A television statement filmed from his bed in which Khan urged people to vote for his party has been re-released as a "paid content" advertisement for PTI.

"Mr Khan has been advised bed rest for the next one or two days and after that doctors will review his condition and decide accordingly," Doctor Faisal Sultan, the head of the private Shaukat Khanum hospital, told reporters.

A medical report listed a series of fractures to Khan's spine, one in his neck, another in a rib and an injury to his scalp.

But Sultan stressed that Khan's spinal canal was intact and "he is in total control of all limbs and body functions".

Party official Shah Mehmood Qureshi said PTI's campaign finale -- a rally outside parliament in Islamabad -- would go ahead as planned on Thursday evening.

"Wherever he is, in any condition, even from the ICU (intensive care unit), he will address the nation in the last moments of the campaign," Qureshi said.

Saturday's vote will be a democratic milestone in a country ruled for half its history by the military. It will be the first time a civilian government has served a full term and handed over to another through the ballot box.

It remains unclear whether a wave of sympathy for Khan will improve his poll prospects. Most commentators expect him to do well enough to become a strong opposition but not to form a government.

Khan, who has only ever won one seat, has led an electrifying campaign, galvanising the middle class and young people in what he has called a "tsunami" of support that will propel him into office.

"Definitely in Pakistan people get very sympathetic when things like this happen. We expect to see a five to 10 percent increase in our support at least," said Salman Malik, a PTI worker campaigning in the Punjab town of Narowal.

Haseeb Asif, 27, a writer speaking to AFP in the same town, said Khan's fall had not swayed his own vote but predicted it might do so for others.





Print Email