Imran Khan’s fall and Pakistani poll

In an election said to be the most unpredictable in Pakistan’s history, the campaign took a turn no-one expected.

BBC Online

Imran Khan, a rising political star, took a fall.
Images of the country’s former cricket captain tumbling from a wooden lift next to a stage played over and over again on Pakistan’s many 24-hour channels.

And, with his fall, the political high ground rose. His chief challenger, Nawaz Sharif, declared at his rally he was cancelling his campaigning the next day in sympathy and solidarity.
Political leaders across the spectrum sent wishes and offered prayers.

President Asif Ali Zardari sent flowers to the Lahore hospital where Khan was under observation after suffering a head injury that needed several stitches.

Suddenly, there seemed to be a rare moment of fair play on the political playing fields.

After weeks of denouncing and demeaning each other, bitter rivals ended the invective.

Across social media, where this election has a life of its own, comments poured in to commend Sharif, the two-time prime minister now facing the fight of his political life against Khan.

“Fantastic maturity”; “brotherly spirit”; “classy” were just some of the adjectives spilling across a Pakistani Twitter timeline.
But in a country where political debate is a popular sport, others landed a harder punch.

“All busy scoring points,” wrote one tweet.

Pakistani writer Abbas Nasir, commenting on Sharif’s move, tweeted: “Shrewd political manoeuvre rather than a gracious act/gesture. Should be seen as such. Probably work too. ”

British Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie tweeted to say: “That is fair play, but then we have to ask: Why have there been no suspended rallies when candidates are killed?”

Her message came from the southern city of Karachi, where candidates and party offices are attacked almost daily by the Pakistani Taliban, who’ve declared this election unIslamic.

Three major parties are on their hit-list, but not Khan’s Movement for Justice or Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League.

On the same day of Khan’s accident, a bomb targeted the brother of a candidate for the Pakistan People’s Party in north-west Pakistan. Zahir Khan was killed along with five others.

Neither Sharif nor Khan has come out strongly in this campaign to condemn the violence against their rivals as a brutal assault on democracy.