ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Imran Khan, the Pakistani sports star who has emerged as a rising force in the country's politics, was seriously injured when he tumbled from a mechanical lift at an election rally on Tuesday.
Mr. Khan, who is 60, was rushed to the hospital, where he was treated for head wounds and back injuries, doctors said, effectively putting an end to his campaigning just days before the general elections on Saturday.
The fall, which was captured on live television, offered a dramatic finale to a closely fought election campaign that has been marred by Taliban attacks on secular parties. In the latest violence, bombs killed 16 people at two election events in the northwest on Tuesday.
Mr. Khan's main electoral rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, canceled his rallies scheduled for Wednesday, the last day of campaigning, in solidarity with Mr. Khan.
Video footage from a rally in Lahore showed Mr. Khan falling about 15 feet to the ground, head first, after supporters standing alongside him apparently overbalanced as a forklift hoisted them onto the stage.
Supporters took Mr. Khan, who was bloodied and unconscious, to the hospital, where he received stitches for his head wounds. Doctors said he had also suffered two small fractures to his backbone.
The accident did not deter Mr. Khan from speaking. In an interview from his hospital bed with Dunya television late Tuesday, he said he was determined to "change the destiny of our children."
"You have to decide if you want to live like this, or whether you want a new Pakistan," he said, draped in a blue hospital gown with his neck supported by a neck brace.
Supporters crowded outside the hospital, which Mr. Khan himself had built in honor of his dead mother, chanting "Long Live Imran Khan." Social media -- including Twitter, which played a role in building Mr. Khan's support among young Pakistanis -- lighted up with expressions of sympathy.
Najam Sethi, the caretaker prime minister of Punjab Province, said he expected Mr. Khan would make a full recovery. "Imran had a small hairline fracture, which is not serious," he told Geo television.
As a former cricket captain who led Pakistan to a World Cup victory in 1992, and a man whose rugged looks earned him sex-symbol status, Mr. Khan has long been a national hero. But his foray into national politics has been a roller-coaster ride: He burst onto the scene with a series of anti-corruption rallies in 2011, then fell out of favor with many supporters, only to rise again in this campaign.
In recent weeks, his nonstop campaigning, in which he has vowed to sweep out corruption and old-style patronage politics, has electrified the public. He has emerged as a potent competitor to Mr. Sharif, who is a favorite to emerge as the next prime minister, with both men battling for votes in Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province.
But analysts say the vote is difficult to predict, and with no party likely to emerge as the overall victor, a coalition government is the most likely outcome.
Mr. Khan's success will depend partly on his ability to mobilize new voters, and Tuesday's accident may earn him sympathy. The progress of his medical treatment is also likely to keep him in the headlines over the coming days.
Election campaigning has been married by relentless Taliban attacks on secular parties that has killed over 110 people in the past month. The pace of bloodshed has quickened in recent days.
At least 16 people died in two explosions in the northwest on Tuesday. Twelve people died in Kurram tribal agency, while four died in the Dir district, one day after a big suicide bombing at a rally in Kurram killed 25 people.
While the attacks have mostly focused on secular candidates, or those who support military action against militants, Mr. Khan has avoided attack – probably, critics say, because he advocates talks with the Taliban and a military withdrawal from the northwest.
Known for his fitness regime, Mr. Khan showed some signs of laboring under his punishing electoral schedule in recent days, and briefly fainted after one rally early in the week.
His trenchant criticism of American drone strikes in the tribal belt and his fiery rhetoric against corruption have won him support among young, urban Pakistanis.
But the vagaries of Pakistan's electoral system, and the entrenched power of traditional politicians, make it hard to predict how much of that popularity will convert into seats in Parliament.
Not everyone praised Mr. Sharif's decision to suspend his campaign. Abbas Nasir, a former editor of the newspaper Dawn, called it a "shrewd political gesture rather than a gracious act.
"Why was he unmoved when A.N.P., others were being savaged by TTP?" Mr. Nasir wrote on Twitter, referring to attacks by the Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan, commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, on the Awami National Party and other blocs.
Salman Masood and Ihsanullah Tipu Meshud contributed reporting from Islamabad, and Waqar Gilani from Lahore.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.