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A mature response: Imran Khan’s fall

May 09, 2013

IMRAN Khan’s injuries resulting from a fall from a forklift during a poll rally in Lahore on Tuesday gave the nation some anxious moments and it was a moment of relief when doctors declared the PTI chief out of danger. Unfortunate though it was, such an accident was not entirely unexpected. The hair-raising somersault only underscored the utter disregard of safety measures in the boisterous rallies that are an essential feature of our electioneering. The threat to life doesn’t come from the militants alone; the chaos that is the hallmark of all public activity in South Asia poses perhaps an equal threat to life and limb. Too many party workers and supporters want to be on the dais and be seen close to the leader, resulting in the kind of jostling and pushing witnessed on Tuesday evening.

But what was a welcome departure from all the mudslinging that has characterised the campaigning was the mature response of politicians — across the political spectrum — to Mr Khan’s plight. For instance, Mr Khan and Nawaz Sharif had been at each other’s throats even before the campaigns began. With the approach of election day, the vitriol had scaled new heights. However, on Tuesday, the PML-N chief announced the cancellation of all campaign activity for Wednesday. Mr Sharif had expressed similar solidarity with the Bhutto family on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto that had resulted in the postponement of polls by several weeks. Apart from Mr Sharif, messages of sympathy for the PTI leader poured in from other party heads and politicians. They ranged from political foes including Altaf Hussain and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to friends such as Syed Munawar Hassan and Maulana Samiul Haq, not to speak of Pervez Musharraf. The MQM and the Jamaat-i-Islami announced a halt to campaigning for a day, and President Asif Ali Zardari, who is frequently criticised by the PTI, sent him a bouquet. Equally heartening was Mr Khan’s own attitude as he spoke from his hospital bed, urging the people to cast their vote on May 11.

This maturity has been welcomed by a nation that often views its representatives with cynicism. However, one niggling thought remains. Why have many of the leaders moved by Tuesday’s dreadful spectacle not shown the same sympathy for those killed and wounded in the election rallies bombed by the TTP? Were these victims and their grieving relatives lesser human beings undeserving of solace because they belonged to the ‘wrong’ political parties?