Sui­cide bomb­ing in Pak­istan kills 132

At­tack takes place as ex-PM re­turns

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - International - By Shashank Ben­gali and Aoun Sahi

ISLAMABAD — At least 132 peo­ple were killed and dozens more crit­i­cally in­jured Fri­day, in a bomb­ing at an elec­tion cam­paign rally in a re­mote re­gion of Pak­istan, an at­tack that hurled the coun­try deep into po­lit­i­cal chaos.

Of­fi­cials blamed a sui­cide bomber for the killings and said the death toll could rise fur­ther.

The bomb­ing hap­pened on the day for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif made a dra­matic re­turn to Pak­istan aboard a com­mer­cial plane and was im­me­di­ately taken into cus­tody along with his daugh­ter on cor­rup­tion charges.

Crit­ics ac­cused the army of fail­ing to pro­vide se­cu­rity af­ter the bomber blew him­self up at the elec­tion event in south­west­ern Pak­istan.

Two of Pak­istan’s most pop­u­lar po­lit­i­cal fig­ures, Mr. Sharif and his daugh­ter Maryam — his po­lit­i­cal heir — were ar­rested by anti-cor­rup­tion po­lice at the air­port in the east­ern city of La­hore mo­ments af­ter they ar­rived from London, where Mr. Sharif’s wife is in a hospi­tal re­ceiv­ing treat­ment for lym­phoma.

As hun­dreds of their sup­port­ers con­fronted an­tiriot po­lice half a mile from the La­hore air­port, the Shar­ifs were flown aboard a small plane to the cap­i­tal, Islamabad, where a judge or­dered them trans­ferred to prison.

The Shar­ifs were sen­tenced last week for fail­ing to dis­close the as­sets the fam­ily used to pur­chase four London apart­ments, whose own­er­ship was re­vealed in the leaked Panama Pa­pers in 2016.

Mr. Sharif, who was or­dered to serve 10 years in prison, vowed to re­turn to Pak­istan to appeal the ver­dict.

The dis­clo­sure of the apart­ments at London’s posh Aven­field House prompted a furor that led to Mr. Sharif’s re­moval from of­fice last year.

Hiss party — the Pak­istan Mus­lim League-Nawaz — has de­scribed the case against him as po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, ar­gu­ing that the coun­try’s pow­er­ful mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment is us­ing the pli­able courts to pun­ish him for chal­leng­ing its supremacy while in of­fice.

In a video state­ment recorded took the Mr. would Air­ways Sharif United off be from aboard ar­rested said Arab flight Abu he Emi­rates, their Dhabi knew be­fore but cast Eti­had he in it him­self as a de­fender of democ­racy.

“I am mak­ing this sac­ri­fice for the fu­ture of Pak­istan,” he said. “Please sup­port me. Let’s change the fate of our coun­try.” Most of the ma­jor roads lead­ing to La­hore were sealed on Fri­day ahead of the Shar­ifs’ ar­rival, while thou­sands of po­lice of­fi­cers and army rangers de­ployed to keep a lid on un­rest.

Au­thor­i­ties re­port­edly took sev­eral hun­dred party ac­tivists into cus­tody late Thurs­day.

Still, about 1,000 stonethrow­ing pro­test­ers marched to within about half a mile of the La­hore air­port, where po­lice fired tear gas them. can­is­ters Dozens of to po­lice dis­perse of­fi­cers and de­mon­stra­tors suf­fered mi­nor in­juries, au­thor­i­ties said. “We have come out be­cause our lead­ers have set an ex­am­ple for us,” said Us­man Khal­ifa, a 37-year-old busi­ness­man who joined the demon­stra­tions in La­hore. “I am out for Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and my fu­ture.” Sharif sup­port­ers ac­cuse the mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment of at­tempt­ing to tilt the play­ing field to en­sure his party does not re­turn to power in July 25 elec­tions. In re­cent weeks, me­dia out­lets crit­i­cal of army in­ter­fer­ence in pol­i­tics have faced a clam­p­down, and sev­eral can­di­dates from Mr. Sharif’s party have sud­denly de­fected in piv­otal Pun­jab prov­ince, which in­cludes La­hore.

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