Elec­tion vi­o­lence kills at least 132 in Pak­istan

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Nation & World - By Za­heer Babar and Ab­dul Sattar

A sui­cide bomber tar­geted an elec­tion

LA­HORE, Pak­istan — The dead­li­est at­tacks in Pak­istan’s trou­bled elec­tion cam­paign killed at least 132 peo­ple, in­clud­ing a can­di­date, Fri­day just be­fore the ar­rest of dis­graced for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif upon his re­turn to the coun­try.

In the south­west­ern prov­ince of Baluchis­tan, a sui­cide bomber killed 128 peo­ple, in­clud­ing a politi­cian run­ning for a pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture. Four oth­ers died in a strike in Pak­istan’s north­west, spread­ing panic in the coun­try.

The at­tacks came hours be­fore Sharif re­turned from Lon­don along with his daugh­ter Maryam to face a 10-year prison sen­tence on cor­rup­tion charges, of­fi­cials said. Maryam Sharif faces seven years in jail.

He was taken into cus­tody to serve his sen­tence, but he is ex­pected to ap­peal and seek bail. It wasn’t clear when his ap­peal would be filed, but he has killing can­di­date un­til Mon­day.

In the south­ern town of Mas­tung, can­di­date Si­raj Raisani and 127 oth­ers died when a sui­cide bomber blew him­self up amid scores of sup­port­ers who had gath­ered at a rally.

The Is­lamic State group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack in a state­ment car­ried on its Aa­maq news agency.

The group gave no rea­son for the bomb­ing that killed Raisani, who was run­ning for elec­tion on the Baluchis­tan Awami Party ticket.

Raisani is the brother of the for­mer Baluchis­tan chief min­is­ter, As­lam Raisani. Care­taker Home Min­is­ter Agha Umar Bun­galzai said 300 peo­ple were wounded in Fri­day’s bomb­ing.

The U.S. State Depart­ment con­demned this week’s at­tacks on po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates and their sup­port­ers in Pak­istan.

“These at­tacks are cow­ardly at­tempts to de­prive the Pak­istani peo­ple of their demo­cratic rights,” it said. “We will con­tinue to stand with the peo­ple of Pak­istan and the broader South Asia re­gion in their fight against ter­ror­ism.”

Mean­while, Sharif ar­rived in the east­ern city of La­hore from Lon­don where he was vis­it­ing his ail­ing wife when a Pak­istani court con­victed him and his daugh­ter of cor­rup­tion.

Sharif’s son-in-law is serv­ing his one-year prison sen­tence on the same charge, which stems from the pur­chase of luxury apart­ments in Bri­tain that the court said were bought with il­le­gally ac­quired money.

Ahead of his re­turn, po­lice swept through La­hore, ar­rest­ing scores of Sharif’s Pak­istan Mus­lim League party work­ers to pre­vent them from greet­ing him at the air­port.

Barbed wire was strung across some roads lead­ing to the La­hore air­port on Fri­day and bar­ri­cades were po­si­tioned at the road­side ready to close off main boule­vards should crowds start to gather.

Sharif has been from par­tic­i­pat­ing banned in pol­i­tics.

JA­MAL TARAQAI/EPA

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