Imran Khan, the sportsman turned politician who has rocked Pakistan’s political scene, is expected to make a full recovery following a fall that left him with with fractured vertebrae and a cracked rib.
Doctors said the 60-year-old Mr Khan had required a total of 15 stitches after suffering a gashes to his head and treatment for three fractured vertebrae – one near the neck and the other two near the middle of his back. Yet they said that contrary to some initial reports, the politician had not fractured his skull.
“The important thing is that the spinal canal is intact and Mr Khan is in full control of his limbs and his body functions,” Shaukat Sultan, director of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial hospital in Lahore, told reporters, according to the Associated Press.
“We are very confident that all these fractures will heal with time and will heal completely and allow him to be fully, completely functional and fit as he always is.”
Mr Khan was injured on Tuesday evening as he fell from a forklift that was raising him onto the main platform at an election rally in Lahore. Three security guards also climbed onto the lift with Mr Khan and it then fell over, the former sportsmen tumbling around 15ft to the floor.
Television footage showed a dazed and bloodied Mr Khan being carried away from the scene, though he later gave an emotional television interview from his hospital bed in which he urged people to make sure they voted in Saturday’s polls. “I have done whatever I could do,” he said. “Now you have to decide whether you want to make a new Pakistan.”
In the weeks ahead of polling day, Mr Khan had followed a punishing schedule as he criss-crossed the country to lead the challenge against Pakistan’s established political parties. “They have been holding these back to back rallies and the only way to do it is to rush from one spot to another,” said Wajahat S Khan, a leading Pakistani journalist who was present when Mr Khan fell. “It’s fun and its frenetic, but the downside is that this sort of thing can happen.”
Doctors said that Mr Khan will require complete bed rest and minimum movement for between three to six weeks. This means his ability to carry on campaigning will be very limited, though there are suggestions he could still address some rallies – including a major, final event planned for Islamabad on Thursday night – by video-link.
The injury to Mr Khan resulted in a outpouring of emotions from his followers as well as messages of support from his rivals. Nawaz Sharif, the presumed front-runner, cancelled a rally he had scheduled for Wednesday evening. There is speculation that Mr Khan, who had won much support from Pakistan’s young and middle-class, could secure extra votes following his tumble.
Meanwhile, two of the guards who fell with Mr Khan have been treated for their injuries and discharged while the third is still in the hospital and is scheduled to have an operation for an injured leg, said Mr Sultan.