LAHORE: Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan Tuesday sustained serious injuries on his head and back after falling from a lifter during climbing up the stage installed for an election rally in Lahore.
TV footage showed him tumbling down along with three or four personal body guards on a pick up truck. The PTI chief was seen bleeding when he was taken away by his party supporters to the city's Liberty Hospital.
The 60-year-old, who has undertaken a punishing schedule of daily rallies but who is known for his physical fitness, tumbled from a riser along with several of his staff, seemingly after one of them lost their balance.
Witness Raza Zaidi told AFP that Khan was being lifted on a crane with five people but lost his balance and fell when a sixth one tried to climb up. Khan hit the lifter before falling on the ground.
Khan sustained injuries on his head and back, said the hospital sources. They also said that Khan had to have as many as 16 stitches due to the injuries he sustained at back of his head.
The rally was held near Ghalib Market in Lahore's Gulberg neighbourhood.
PTI spokeswoman Shirin Mazari told AFP Khan was injured on his forehead after falling from a height of more than seven feet (over two metres), but was conscious.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz issued sympathetic statements to their competitor in Punjab. They prayed for swift recovery of Khan.
Sharif, in rare goodwill gesture, has asked his party workers to immediately halt the media advertisements against Imran Khan.
Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain and Allama Tahirul Qadri also showed sympathy towards the PTI chief and prayed for his well being.
Famous singer and PTI leader Abrarul Haq has said the party chief is out of danger and stable now at the hospital. Another party leader Asad Umar, talking to Dawn.com, also confirmed that Khan is now conscious and well.
People at the rally venue, where thousands had gathered, expressed sadness.
“Passion and love for Imran Khan brought all these people here. We are still here, all we can do is pray now,” said Sobia Khan, a PTI supporter.
Imran Khan’s ex-wife Jamima Khan also tweeted that he is stable and conscious now
@Jemima_Khan: He's in hospital & conscious now RT @BBCBreaking: Pak politician Imran Khan injured in fall from stage at election rally
In another tweet, she quoted Khan's nephew saying that the PTI chief was reciting Kalma in ambulance but is fine now.
@Jemima_Khan: This from IK's nephew: "@HniaziISF: Chairman reciting kalma in ambulance- he is fine - plz just pray"
A CT scan of Khan's head injury will determine the further course of medical treatment, said a doctor at Shaukat Khanum Hospital where the cricket star-turned politician was taken to after receiving initial treatment at Liberty Hospital.
Dr Yasmeen Rashid further said Khan is stable and talking now.
Hundreds of well wishers and party supporters gathered outside the hospital, chanting "Long Live Imran Khan," an AFP reporter said.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Shafqat Mehmood told Dawn.com that the party chief has been asked by the doctors to suspend his ongoing election campaign for at least two weeks due to serious nature of his injuries. However, he clarified that it is a medical precaution and not a political decision.
Some of the party leaders also informed Dawn.com that injuries to Khan's back are also critical and he is unable to move freely.
In a passionate appeal to the nation from his hospital bed, Imran Khan said that they should vote for change and should continue the struggle for making a new Pakistan for the sake of their children’s future.
He asked the people to come out in big numbers to vote for change. “I have done what I could do to inspire the people for bringing change in the country. Now it is up to the masses in Pakistan to ensure the change on may 11,” said the PTI chief.
Imran Khan spoke exclusively to Dawn.com moments before the Lahore incident