Thousands gather to hear Imran Khan’s hospital bed election address

PTI supporters hope a late surge can lift former cricketer to win Saturday’s vote

Islamabad, Lahore

Tens of thousands of frenetic, flag-waving voters poured into Pakistan's capital on tonight to listen to Imran Khan address them from his hospital bed on a dramatic final day of campaigning ahead of Saturday's general election.

Unable to attend the Islamabad event in person after he fell and injured his back while campaigning earlier in the week, Mr Khan addressed the crush of people - most of them apparently aged in their 20s and 30s - by video-link from his hospital in Lahore.

“God has given us a chance. Don't let it slip away,” urged Mr Khan, his head propped on a pillow, dressed in a blue hospital gown and a gash showing on his forehead. “We must break the status quo.”

He added: “Let's make a promise to that we will vote for the PTI and we will make a new foundation for Pakistan...and there will be peace, stability and justice.”

At one point, as the crowd roared its appreciation, the former cricketer appeared to wipe tears from both eyes.

The packed rally marked the culmination of a remarkable campaign by the former cricket star who surged, was written-off and then rebounded in the final weeks of the campaign, borne by millions of supporters desperate for change. One poll this week suggested Mr Khan was neck-and-neck with the presumed front-runner Nawaz Sharif. The election heralds the first democratic transfer of power in Pakistan's 66-year history.

“We need change. We need someone different from the traditional parties. We want our generation to feel like they are in a new place,” said Saman Qayyum, a 24-year-old architecture graduate who was among huge numbers of young women who turned out. “We need to address the electricity shortage, our education system and our identity. If you go abroad you feel ashamed as a Pakistani - we have lost our identity.”

The 60-year-old Mr Khan draws much of support from Pakistan's young. But his appeal cuts across groups and classes who are drawn to him for different reasons, among them some of the nation's religious conservatives.

Ibaad ur Rehman, a 26-year-old engineer was among a group of young people wearing T-shirts of Mr Khan's Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI) party driving on the motorway towards Islamabad for the rally. “He is going to make structural changes to Pakistan. Feudals and industrialists have been coming to power on the back of ordinary people,” he claimed.

Overwhelmingly, however, his supporters say they want to try something different. They are tired with corruption, tired with stifling power cuts, and tired with poor governance. Having campaigned as the anti-establishment candidate, Mr Khan has been able to tap into a deep pool of discontent.

“I will vote for the PTI because I want change,” said Radha Khan, a 22-year-old student who was sipping coffee in an upmarket cafe in Lahore this week. “There is an opportunity with Imran Khan. We think he has the same qualities as the founder of Pakistan, who said we needed a separate country and I think Imran Khan will ensure we have a good country.”

Following his fall from a forklift truck on Tuesday, Mr Khan, who first contested an election in 1997 and failed, has been confined to a ward in Lahore's Shaukat Khanum Memorial hospital, which he established in memory of his mother. A friend said Mr Khan would need to stay there for several days.

Outside, supporters had left hundreds of bunches of flowers and messages of support. “You won the 1992 cricket World Cup with a shoulder injury. You will win the 2013 election with an injured back and neck, God willing,” said one message, signed by Faisal Quzafi Kashif.

One well-wisher, Mueen Bukhari, a 48-year-old father of two, said he had  travelled from southern Punjab, an area where Mr Khan has eaten into support usually loyal to Mr Sharif. “I voted for Nawaz in 2008 but now I support Imran Khan. He has a new idea, a new concept,” said Mr Bukhari. “If you have a good leader, then it improves things at grass-roots.”

Can Mr Khan pull off a victory? His supporters admit it will be tight but are convinced they have history on their side. Mr Bukhari, standing outside the hospital, the air fragrant from hundreds of flowers, declared: “I am 100 per cent hopeful.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?