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Pakistan politician expected to recover from fall

Supporters of Imran Khan rallied in Lahore Wednesday, a day after the popular politician fell 15 feet from a fork lift.

Mani Rana/REUTERS

Supporters of Imran Khan rallied in Lahore Wednesday, a day after the popular politician fell 15 feet from a fork lift.

LAHORE, Pakistan — Prominent Pakistani politician Imran Khan is expected to make a full recovery despite fracturing three vertebrae and a rib in a dramatic fall at a political rally, his doctor said Wednesday.

Khan, a former cricket legend whose party is a leading contender in this week’s national elections, toppled about 15 feet off a forklift Tuesday that was raising him and three guards to a stage at a rally in the eastern city of Lahore. The dramatic footage was broadcast repeatedly on local TV.

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Khan, 60, fractured a vertebra in his neck and two in his back in the fall, said his doctor, Faisal Sultan. He also cracked a rib and cut his head, but Sultan refuted earlier reports that Khan fractured his skull.

‘‘The most important thing out of all this is the spinal canal is intact, and Mr. Imran Khan is in full control of all his limbs and his body functions,’’ Sultan said at a news conference in Lahore. ‘‘We are very confident that all these fractures will heal with time and will heal completely and allow him to be fully, completely functional and fit as he always is.’’

Khan will be kept on bed rest in the hospital for at least a few more days, so that doctors can conduct further examinations, Sultan said.

Two of the guards who fell with Khan have been treated and discharged. A third remains hospitalized and is scheduled to have surgery on his leg, Sultan said.

Khan’s injuries will largely knock him out of the last few days of campaigning before the elections are held on May 11. It is unclear whether he will try to address any political rallies by phone or video.

It is possible that Khan could benefit from the accident if Pakistanis choose to vote for him out of sympathy.

Hours after the fall, the charismatic politician gave an interview from his hospital bed. He was visibly shaken and had a cut on his forehead, but he was still asking people to vote for his party.

‘‘I have done whatever I could do,’’ Khan said. ‘‘Now you have to decide whether you want to make a new Pakistan.’’

One of Khan’s main competitors, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, suspended his campaign for a day on Wednesday out of respect for his opponent.

The fall put a damper on what has been one of Pakistan’s most dynamic election campaigns. Khan, who earned legendary status in the country when he led the underdog national team to a 1992 cricket World Cup victory, had injected new energy into a political system long dominated by dynasties.

He entered politics in the late 1990s, but it wasn’t until 2011 that his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, gained a widespread national following. Now his party is considered one of the three main challengers in the upcoming election.

Many analysts consider former Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N party to be the front runner in the election, but Khan has emerged as a wild card. His party has dented the two-party system long dominated by the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party and could steal votes from both.

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