Politically Divided Pakistan Rallies Around Injured Imran Khan

This post is part of our Special Coverage Pakistan Votes 2013.

Popular cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose hopeful campaign promise of a “New Pakistan” has drawn large crowds of young people and urban voters to his rallies ahead of the country's general elections, fractured three vertebrae and a rib after falling off a 15-feet high forklift just before a scheduled speech.

Khan, who was at a rally in the city of Lahore, was immediately rushed to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital. Within a few hours of being hospitalized, he regained consciousness and managed to make a powerful political speech to the journalists at his bedside.

With the country's hotly contested elections on May 11, 2013 only days away, Khan's dramatic fall comes during the final campaign push. He is leading Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a newcomer that could be a strong contender for the people's representation in the upcoming elections.

But phenomenally, the incident shows signs of bridging the bitter political divides across the country, with political rivals, critics, and opponents putting aside their differences to wish Khan good health.

the incident

Imran Khan falling off the lifter.
Image courtesy PTI UK official Facebook page

The news instantly replaced all other headlines on TV channels and social media were soon abuzz with it. People from all sorts of political affiliations, from his staunch rivals, Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif, to international celebrities such as Brian Lara, spoke up to wish Imran Khan a speedy recovery.

West Indies cricketer Brian Lara (@BrianLara) tweeted from his account on May 8, 2013:

@BrianLara: Imran Khan injured @ rally fell off stage… Out of danger Thank God!! Get well soon great man. Continue striving in what u believe in.

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahbaz Sharif posted on his Facebook page:

Just visited Imran Khan in the hospital and conveyed best wishes of Mian Nawaz Sharif… He is Alhumdulillah fine and recovering mashaaAllah… Prayers for him and his family!!!

Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif), the daughter of PML-N's chief Nawaz Sharif, also resounded similar sentiments:

@MaryamNSharif: Got the sad news while campaigning. Our prayers and wishes for Imran Khan Sahib's early & complete recovery.

Imran Khan has been injured after a fall at a political rally in Lahore. The aftermath of his accident attracted strong sympathy from around the world with hundreds of people gathering outside the Shaukat Khanum Hospital where he was being treated. Image by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh. Copyright Demotix (8/5/2013)

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Shaukat Khanum Hospital where Imran Khan was being treated. Image by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh. Copyright Demotix (8/5/2013)

Dr. Tahirul-Qadri (@TahirulQadri), who recently led a sizable crowd to protest against the outgoing Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government, stated:

@TahirulQadri: My heartfelt sympathy goes out to PTI chairman Imran Khan on sustaining injury. I pray for his better health.

Rehman Malik (@SenRehmanMalik), former interior minister in the outgoing PPP government, tweeted:

@SenRehmanMalik: I pray for early recovery of Imran Khan. May Allah bless him with fast recovery.

In Punjab, Khan's party is locked in a bitter political tussle with Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). Despite this, PML-N head, Nawaz Sharif, expressed his grief over the incident and decided to stall his party's election campaign for a day, as a show of solidarity with Khan.

Many have gone on to claim that Khan has united a divided nation with his fall. The incident, Hammad Siddiqui (@hammads) wrote, also hints that Pakistani politicians have matured:

@hammads: Altaf Bhai was the first one to cancel his address and prayed for Imran Khan – Followed by NS this shows political maturity #GetwellSoonIK

The incident has also triggered mass support and sympathy for Khan's political party, with many speculating that it may turn the tables in the party's favor. Hassan Belal Zaidi (@mightyobvious_), a media consultant, penned a post titled “Fall to Grace” for Pak Votes. In his post, Zaidi wrote:

The truth is, Imran might just end up winning this one. I can smell a victory for the Cricket Bat a mile away. It may not be a massive win, it may not be a rout, but for a first time party, it will definitely be a victory. I just hope that this (excuse the pun) knock on the head will be the wake-up call many in our country need. I do not support the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, nor will I be voting for them. But I do wish their party and their leader the best of luck.

While many have criticized Imran Khan for having rightist leanings, the unfortunate fall has yet again highlighted the fact that Khan has politically stirred the nation, especially the youth. And when all is said and done, such mobilization is a very welcome change in a budding democracy.

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