Today, from his hospital bed in Lahore at the Shaukat Khanam Memorial Hospital, Imran Khan made his final speech to the people of Pakistan before the national elections are held on Saturday. According to the rules established by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), all political campaigning is supposed to be stopped 32 hours prior to the election.
25,000 Imran Khan supporters gathered in the country’s capital, Islamabad, at D-Chowk to listen to their leader via a live video feed from Lahore, 161 miles away. Imran Khan is the only Pakistani leader capable of commanding an audience of 25,000 people from a hospital bed in a different city.
Khan was hospitalized after he was knocked off a forklift at the edge of a stage and fell headfirst to the ground during a political rally in Lahore on Tuesday. He suffered from minor injuries and was advised bed rest for a week.
While making his final address to the nation, Khan encouraged all Pakistanis to come out and vote to usher in his proposed “change.” He said that May 11 is the day to choose a better future for Pakistan's children:
“Allah Almighty will not let me die until I accomplish the goal of making Quaid’s Pakistan and I call upon the nation to reject the status quo on May 11.″
The official Twitter account of the PTI, Khan's party, gave periodic updates on the rally in Islamabad and provided links to stream the video feed online. In a country that has lately been rife with political and sectarian violence, Khan and the PTI have proven to be symbols of patriotism and pride for many. There exists great hope for a win for Imran Khan and the PTI, and with it a renewal of the long-lost confidence in the power of the vote in Pakistan.
However, one must not forget the violence that has characterized the run-up to these elections. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has continuously targeted secular and incumbent political parties including the PPP, the ANP, and the MQM. Regrettably, bomb blasts have been a weekly feature over the past few months in numerous parts of the country. The TTP has also warned that it plans to disrupt the elections by carrying out suicide bombings on Election Day.
While such an environment is hardly an ideal framework for elections and by no means a path to a healthy proactive democracy, it is nonetheless the first time in the history of Pakistan that the previous government completed its term and a new one will take its place via subsequent elections under a caretaker government.
The PTI and Imran Khan have campaigned tirelessly. With over 35 million new voters registered this election season, a win for Imran Khan will reassure many that a ‘Naya’ (new) Pakistan might still be a possibility.
With all the pre-election campaigning done, on Saturday, the Pakistani people will decide the fate of their country.