Pakistan's Imran Khan in hospital after rally fall

Pakistani politician Imran Khan was being treated for a head injury Wednesday after falling at an election rally, the latest dramatic turn in a campaign that has seen more than 100 people killed in attacks.

Television footage showed Khan, leader of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (PTI), bleeding from the head after tumbling from a makeshift lift transporting him onto a stage in Pakistan's second-largest city of Lahore.

But in a televised statement from his hospital bed shortly after, the former cricketer urged people to vote for his party in Saturday's polls.

"I did whatever I could for this country. Now remember 11th May, come out and vote for PTI without considering its candidates, just vote for PTI," he said, wearing a neck brace and speaking in a weak voice.

The former cricketer's accident came at the end of a day that saw 18 people killed and dozens wounded in bomb attacks in northwest Pakistan ahead of the general election.

In another attack Wednesday, one woman was killed and 15 people wounded when a suicide bomber crashed his explosives-packed car into a barrier outside a police station in the troubled northwest.

The poll will mark a democratic milestone in a country ruled for half its history by the military, as the first time a civilian government has served a full term and handed over to another through the ballot box.

Khan, who won only one seat in 2002 and boycotted polls in 2008, has led an electric campaign, galvanising the middle class and young people in what he has called a "tsunami" of support that will propel him into office.

The 60-year-old, who has undertaken a punishing schedule of daily rallies but who is known for his physical fitness, fell from an overcrowded lift platform at the election rally along with several of his staff.

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. He hit the lift before falling on the ground.

"Imran Khan has one head injury. We are conducting his CT scan and other tests. He is stable, he is conscious and he is recognising people. He is all right," Faisal Sultan, the director of Shaukat Khanum hospital, told reporters.

PTI spokeswoman Shirin Mazari told AFP Khan was injured on his forehead after falling from a height of more than seven feet (two metres). Television images showed him being transported on a stretcher, his head swathed in bandages.

Supporters at the rally venue, where thousands had gathered, expressed their concern after the horrifying fall.

"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.

Party officials had initially said he would be back to address the rally but he was later transferred from a small private hospital to the Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital he set up in honour of his mother.

Hundreds of well-wishers and party supporters gathered outside the hospital, chanting "Long Live Imran Khan", an AFP reporter said.

Khan's main rival, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who is tipped to win the election, conveyed his sympathies, his Pakistan Muslim League-N party spokesman Siddiqul Farooq told AFP.

Later, Sharif announced the cancellation of campaign activities on Wednesday.

Wednesday's blast at the police station brings the number of deaths in attacks on politicians and political parties since mid-April to 111, according to an AFP tally.

The Pakistani Taliban have condemned the polls as un-Islamic and directly threatened the main parties in the outgoing ruling coalition led by the secular Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

The suicide bomber struck early Wednesday in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which is rife with Taliban and Al-Qaeda-led militancy.

"We have confirmation of the death of one woman in the suicide attack near Domail police station in Bannu. More than 15 people have been wounded including six policemen and two kids," local police chief Abdul Ghafoor Afridi told AFP.

Afridi said seven houses and part of the police station also collapsed due to the impact of the blast.

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