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.”

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable