Pakistan’s former PM Nawaz Sharif arrested hours after a huge suicide attack kills at least 70
The deadliest attack in Pakistan’s troubled election campaign has killed at least 70 people, including a candidate, as disgraced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned home to face arrest.
Mr Sharif returned late on Friday from London along with his daughter Maryam to face a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges.
Maryam Sharif faces seven years in jail.
He was taken into custody to serve his sentence, however he is expected to appeal and seek bail. It wasn’t clear when his appeal would be filed but he has until Monday.
In a horrific assault in the south-western Baluchistan town of Mastung, Siraj Raisani a candidate in the provincial Parliament, 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.
The group gave no reason for the bombing that killed Mr Raisani, who was running for the election on the Baluchistan Awami Party ticket.
Mr Raisani was the brother of the former Baluchistan chief minister, Aslam Raisani. Caretaker Home Minister Agha Umar Bungalzai told The Associated Press another 120 people were injured in the bombing.
Supporters of Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan celebrate a court ruling against Sharif this month. (AP: K.M. Chaudary)
The attack happened as the former prime minister returned to Lahore, where police arrested scores of his Pakistan Muslim League party workers to prevent them from greeting him at the airport.
In a video message on Friday reportedly from aboard his aircraft en route to Pakistan, Sharif said he was returning knowing he would be taken directly to prison.
Sharif has been banned from participating in politics, and his brother Shahbaz Sharif now heads his Pakistan Muslim League and is campaigning for re-election on July 25.
In a televised appeal to supporters from London earlier this week, Sharif said he was not afraid of prison and asked people to vote for his party.
He also used the opportunity to again criticise Pakistan’s powerful military, which has ruled the country directly or indirectly for most of its 71-year history, saying Pakistan now has a “state above the state”.
During his term in office, Sharif criticised the military’s involvement in civilian affairs and its efforts in fighting extremists.
Pakistani and international rights groups have accused the military of seeking to maintain its influence in Pakistani politics by keeping Sharif out of power.
The military denied the accusations, saying their assistance in carrying out the elections was requested by Pakistan’s election commission. The army will deploy 350,000 security personnel to polling stations throughout the country on election day.