Monday 20 May 2019

Over 130 killed as suicide bomber hits Pakistan poll rally

LAHORE, July 14, 2018

More than 130 people were killed on Friday as a suicide bomber struck a campaign rally in south-western Pakistan, the deadliest attack in the country since 2014, said media reports.
Among the dead was Baluchistan provincial assembly candidate Siraj Raisani, his family said. He was a candidate for the Balochistan Awami party, reported BBC.
Local officials say the attacker detonated a bomb inside a crowded compound where the campaign rally was being held.
"Human remains and red bloody pieces of flesh were littered everywhere in the compound," local journalist Attah Ullah was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
"Injured people were crying in pain and fear," the journalist said.
IS militants later used their news outlet to claim the group carried out the attack, said the report.
IS has carried out a number of attacks in the region bordering Afghanistan in recent years. However, security has improved since the military managed to clear large swathes of territory.
Friday's attacks were the deadliest in Pakistan's troubled election campaign and took place just hours before Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was arrested in Lahore airport as he returned to face a 10-year prison sentence, which he claimed was part of a wide-ranging, military-backed conspiracy to deny his party a second term in an election due on July 25, reported The Guardian.
Military police boarded Sharif’s flight as it landed from a stop in Abu Dhabi after taking off in London. Paramilitary Rangers battled with Sharif’s supporters to escort the 68-year-old off the aircraft, into a waiting car and then across the 200 yards to another small aircraft.
The Rangers also arrested Maryam, his daughter, who on July 6 was sentenced with her father to seven years in the trial over how the family came to own four luxury flats in London’s Park Lane, a story that resurfaced in the 2016 leak of the Panama Papers.
The father-daughter duo were put on a chartered plane bound for Pakistan's capital Islamabad and later transferred to a local prison, reported BBC.
The three-term PM was ousted last year after a corruption investigation. Last week he was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison.
“What credibility will the election have if the government is taking such action against our people?,” said Sharif.
“Somebody is forcing the caretaker government to take these actions,” he said, hinting at the role of the so-called “establishment”, whose influence Sharif attempted to limit until he was ousted in a controversial supreme court ruling last July.
A battle with the deep state, which began when the military ousted Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999, reached its peak this week. 
The arrests ignited an otherwise lacklustre election campaign beset by allegations that the powerful military was “engineering” the vote to promote the main opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by the former cricketer Imran Khan. The military has denied the allegations.
The latest poll shows that Khan’s party is marginally in front of the PML-N. On Friday, European election monitors were granted permission to deploy across the country.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s anti-graft court, ruled earlier this month that Sharif and his family laundered money in the 1990s to pay for the Park Lane apartments, drawing on allegations that resurfaced in the Panama Papers leak.
Before Sharif’s return, his brother Shahbaz, the former chief minister of Punjab, led tens of thousands of supporters in a welcome rally but the caravan had to negotiate a city turned into a warren of roadblocks.
Police arrested more than 500 Pakistani Muslim League (Nawaz) party (PML-N) workers in the hours before Sharif’s arrival, banned public gatherings of more than five people and cut mobile phone signals across Lahore. The media regulator banned mentions of “convicted persons”, thwarting local journalists from broadcasting much of Sharif’s response.
Sharif plans to appeal against his conviction on landing but analysts doubt he would receive bail before the election.  

Tags: Pakistan | Nawaz Sharif | suicide bombing |

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