Pakistan election hopeful Imran Khan grounded by fall | News | DW | 08.05.2013
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Pakistan election hopeful Imran Khan grounded by fall

Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan has suffered a setback in his election campaign, being injured in a fall at an election rally. The accident came on a bloody day that earlier saw 18 killed.

The leader of Khan's Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI) party, Asad Omar, told Pakistan-based television network Geo News that a revision of campaign strategy would take place on Wednesday.

The party is one of three with a good chance of winning, alongside the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).

Khan fell some 15 feet (4.5 meters), along with several other people, from a makeshift lift he had boarded to reach the stage at an election rally in Lahore. He was taken from the scene in bandages, having sustained two hairline skull fractures.

However, Omar said the 60-year-old was in good physical condition and was eager to resume his political activities. The assurances came amid fears from supporters that the Khan campaign would be knocked off the campaign trail by the accident.

From his hospital bed, Khan - described as stable - made an appeal for voters to back his party. "I did whatever I could for this country. Now remember 11th May, come out and vote for PTI without considering its candidates, just vote for PTI," he said.

Khan's PTI has been gaining momentum on the established parties and the politician believes a "tsunami" of support - particularly from young people - will sweep him to power. However, the fall represents something of a setback ahead of the election, putting a relentless campaign schedule on hold.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, leader of the PML-N - which is slightly ahead of the PTI in polling - announced he would suspend his campaign for a day as a mark of respect for his opponent Khan.

Khan is perhaps Pakistan's most famous cricketer ever, he played internationally for two decades and was national captain for ten years. In 1992, the last tournament of his international career, he led Pakistan to its first World Cup win.

Poll related violence claims lives

The accident on Tuesday came after three bombings in northwest Pakistan, which targeted individuals who were involved in elections, claimed 18 lives. The death toll of candidates and party workers since the beginning of April now stands at almost 100.

Most violence has been against parties who support military action being taken against the Taliban in Pakistan's tribal areas near to the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed the election is un-Islamic, directly threatening main parties in the outgoing ruling coalition led by the increasingly unpopular secular PPP.

Center-right parties such as the PML-N and Khan's PTI have not been targeted. Khan says he believes the Pakistani army should withdraw from the tribal areas, resolving the conflict through negotiations.

rc/jr (AFP, AP, Reuters)