LAHORE, Pakistan – One of Pakistan's most prominent politicians, former cricket star Imran Khan, fell 15 feet from a stage at a political rally Tuesday, leaving a gash on his head and uncertainty hanging over his ability to campaign ahead of Saturday's general election.
Khan has emerged as a wild-card candidate, and it's unclear how much his massive personal popularity will translate into votes at the polls. But his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is considered one of the top three parties in the country.
A PTI leader, Ijaz Chaudhry, said Khan's injuries were not life-threatening. Dr. Mohammed Shafiq, who treated him, said Khan received seven stitches to a six-inch long wound in the head. He said the cut was not deep.
"He is fully conscious and he was complaining of backache. He is fine, but he must have some rest for one or two days," Shafiq said in comments aired on Geo News. Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital in the eastern city of Lahore awaiting word of his condition.
Dramatic television footage of the fall showed Khan standing on what appeared to be a makeshift elevator accompanied by at least three guards or supporters. As the elevator began to raise him up to the stage, the cricket star and at least two of the men standing next to him fall back over a railing.
Khan fell at least 5 meters (15 feet), and it's not clear what type of surface he fell onto. Local TV footage showed supporters carrying Khan away from the rally. His face was bloody, and he appeared unconscious.
The fall put a damper on what has been one of Pakistan's most dynamic election campaigns. Khan earned legendary status in the country when he led the underdog national team to the 1992 cricket World Cup to a victory.
He later joined politics but it wasn't until just a few years ago that his PTI party gained a widespread national following.
The charismatic politician had been setting a furious pace of rallies and election events across the country to drum up support for his campaign. Few expect him to be the next prime minster, but his party could play a role as a kingmaker or form a solid opposition in parliament.
Interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso expressed concern over Khan's injury and wished him a quick recovery.
Political events in Pakistan can be a chaotic affair. Often crowds press up against areas where the candidates are speaking, and safety regulations are not always strictly followed.