Pakistan Election Violence Spikes as Former Prime Minister Sharif Arrested

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An injured Pakistani man is brought to a hospital in Quetta on Friday following a bomb blast at an election rally.

An injured Pakistani man is brought to a hospital in Quetta on Friday following a bomb blast at an election rally.


Photo:

banaras khan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

LAHORE, Pakistan—The deadliest attack in Pakistan’s troubled election campaign killed more than 70 people, including a candidate, in southwestern Baluchistan province on Friday ahead of the return and arrest of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

A suicide bomber blew himself up amid scores of supporters who had gathered at a rally in Mastung, a town in southwestern Baluchistan province.

The candidate who died,

Siraj Raisani,

is the brother of the former Baluchistan chief minister, Aslam Raisani. Caretaker Home Minister

Agha Umar Bungalzai

told the Associated Press that another 120 people were wounded in Friday’s bombing.

Mr. Sharif and his daughter Mariam arrived in the eastern city of Lahore from London around 8 p.m. local time. Mr. Sharif was immediately arrested, according to the country’s anticorruption authority. It is expected he will be taken to the federal capital of Islamabad to face a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges.

The two were in London visiting Mr. Sharif’s ailing wife when a Pakistani court convicted them of corruption.

Mr. Sharif’s son-in-law is currently serving a 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. Mr. Sharif is expected to appeal his conviction and seek bail.

In a video message Friday reportedly from aboard his aircraft en route to Pakistan, Mr. Sharif said he was returning knowing he would be taken directly to prison.

Mr. 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.

Ahead of his return, police swept through Lahore, arresting scores of Mr. 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.

Underscoring the security threat were two bombings that went off Friday. The first bomb that killed four people exploded in the northwest near the election rally of a senior politician from an Islamist party who is running for parliament from the northwestern town of Bannu.

The explosion targeted candidate

Akram Khan Durrani,

who escaped unhurt, and wounded 20 people, said local police chief

Rashid Khan.

Mr. Durrani is running in the July 25 vote against popular former lawmaker

Imran Khan.

He is a candidate of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an election alliance of radical religious groups.

The second explosion was in southwestern Baluchistan province, that killed some 65 people and critically wounded the candidate Mr. Raisani.

Another 45 people were hurt in the attack in Mastung, a town in southwest Baluchistan province.

No one claimed responsibility for either bombing, but the attacks came days after a suicide bomber dispatched by the Pakistani Taliban killed secular politician

Haroon Ahmed Bilour

and 20 others at his rally in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Former lawmaker Imran Khan, who hopes to become the next prime minister, condemned Friday’s attack against his opponent. In a tweet, he said there seems to be a conspiracy to sabotage the July 25 vote. But he said the people of Pakistan won’t allow anything to prevent “historic” elections from taking place.